Watch: iskwe’s “Breaking Down”

by W. Andrew Powell

iskwē is one of my favourite Indigenous pop artists working in Canada today, and her new single “Breaking Down” is a testament to what makes her, and her art, so compelling. It is a powerful video, with a sound that is visceral and moving, and the video is a story, a work of art, and a moving portrait that represents so many people.

“‘Breaking Down’ is about me finding my way back to my clan,” she said, “which represents my family in the spirit world. I wanted to show the emergence of self, by shedding layers of the past while discovering strength in being true to who I am.”

Working with director Jessica Lea Fleming, iskwē planned to be as inclusive as possible, “with each of the dancers representing different communities– Indigenous, people of colour, LGBTQ–as a way to honour our various stages of emergence and growth in finding comfort in who we are.”

Talking about her style, iskwē said, “I have always gravitated towards darker, deep-cut, bottom-heavy sounds. That’s just what resonates with my creativity. I am hugely influenced by that fundamental darkness that came alive in bands like Massive Attack and Portishead as part of the Bristol sound, but I also love strong, bold women like Bjork and Erykah Badu.”

During her performances, iskwē uses face paint to pay tribute to her ancestral roots, and as part of a larger message. “Painting was one of my first loves,” she said. “Incorporating it into my live show has not only become a way for me to expand my creative expression but it is also very much an act of reclaiming tradition.”

Beyond that, it’s a form of cultural rebellion. “Even if it isn’t entirely understood, painting my face prompts people to ask me, ‘Why?’ If I were to be subtle about it, I’d risk the message being lost in translation but when I’m loud and over the top with it, I think people find it harder to look away. That’s important to me because it prompts dialogue and it lets me know that the conversation is still very much alive.”

“Breaking Down” is iskwē’s second single off her upcoming new release, achakosuk.

Watch the video for “Breaking Down” below and then follow iskwē on,, and Instagram.

Listen to more tracks from our Fresh Indies featured playlist on Spotify.

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