Balancing act has hip hop mom in a good place

Perry
Perry Bergson
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Lindsay Knight balances a lot in her life.

The one-time Prince Albert resident is a mother of two, has a successful career as a hip hop artist under the name Eekwol, teaches a course at the University of Saskatchewan and speaks to youngsters in schools.

The message of strength she delivered to a SIAST Woodland Campus Library packed with students on Tuesday was one of cultural awareness, knowing yourself and embracing the things in your life that inspire you.

She says the reaction has been very good.

“Usually it’s pretty positive,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started … If you try to write like somebody else or act like somebody else or regurgitate somebody else’s feelings, it’s not going to come across. Just do your own thing and use your heart in everything you do, including speaking to others, and that’s what I do.”

Knight was born in Winnipeg and spent her first five years there before moving to Saskatoon. The daughter of a Cree man and a Russian woman, she lived in Prince Albert from the age of 13 to 15, before choosing to move back to Saskatoon to live with family there.

She was out of her teens when her music career first came to life.

Her uncle, Chester Knight, a Juno award-winning musician born on Muskoday First Nation who performs country-folk, played a key role in her development.

She started performing on stage around age 20 when she was invited to open a show for her uncle with a hip hop group comprised of her brother and some cousins.

“It was a pretty big deal,” she remembers.

Knight, recording as Eekwol (pronounced equal) released seven albums between 1998 and 2009, gaining a reputation as a trailblazing female aboriginal hip hop singer.

In 2006, she won an award for Best Rap/Hip Hop CD at the Aboriginal People's Choice Awards.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” she says. “Before I had my kids, it was getting to the point where it was almost too much. It was lot of gigs and opportunities but I couldn’t fit it all in.”

She found that as an independent artist, the money was good but that the workload doing her own promoting, booking and all of the other tasks to manage her career was a lot.

Children changed all that. She had her son five years ago and her daughter a year ago.

“I took a little break and then it came back in a different way,” she says. “With my kids I wasn’t doing bar shows anymore because I can’t stay up until two and then try to get up at 6 a.m. to take care of a baby. That was too brutal. But I started getting asked to play festivals.”

The more family-oriented shows are perfect for the mother of two young children.

Her brother Justin still lives in Prince Albert and they collaborate musically when they can. But family has changed that too.

“He’s an amazing composer but we don’t get to work together that much anymore because he has two kids here and I have two kids there,” she says. “We used to be able to go sit in the studio for six or seven hours. Now it’s more like baby has a nap for half an hour, let’s write.”

Knight has her Masters in Native Studies and she now teaches a class in Indigenous Music at the University of Saskatchewan.

It’s given her a comfort level behind the mic as she ad libs her presentations to audiences.

(Her son was in school and infant daughter under the care of Grandma in Prince Albert; Knight’s parents still live here.)

She says her mushum (grandfather), David Knight from Muskoday, taught her that delivering her presentation off the cuff was a more honest approach.

“He said if you write things down than it’s not going to come from the heart,” she said. “Just speak from the heart and it will come out the way it’s supposed to. So whenever I do that, it was always kind of comes out the way it’s supposed to, even if it’s sometimes messy or whatever. I get people coming up and saying thank you. Hopefully I encourage them to share their stories too because everybody has a good story.”

Her speech to students is also about accepting your failures. In her case, it was a wild phase that came when she was younger.

Knight talked about her decision to give up alcohol 10 years ago.

“I like to call it my dying days when I was doing the drinking and partying,” Knight says. “It was a very dark period of my life. It’s the point when I was dying. So many of the people that we know and care about, when they get into drinking and addictions, it’s a very dark place. When you’re there, you don’t think you can be anywhere else until you have to quit or die.”

They are themes she draws on in her music and her presentations.

“I’ve had a lot of emotional experience and pain and happiness and beauty and that’s what I write, basically,” she says.

She jokes during her hour-long presentation filled with speech and song about her efforts to learn Cree. But the message of re-establishing frayed cultural roots isn’t lost on her rapt audience.

Knight delivers it with humour but it packs a punch.

“From what I’ve seen and what I know and the people I met and the hardships -- some people are having a really rough time -- I don’t give a s… anymore about if I should be mincing words. There’s not enough time. There are people dying. Trying to help others, that keeps you healthy.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, University of Saskatchewan, SIAST Woodland Campus Library Aboriginal People

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Indigenous Music

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