Zoon releases new record ‘Bekka Ma’iingan’

Zoon press photo
Photo credit to Vanessa Heins

‘Bekka Ma’iingan’ (Bay-Ka Mo-Een-Gan) the highly anticipated new album from Zoon  (Zoongide’ewin) the musical outlet of songwriter, composer and activist, Daniel Monkman is out now. The album title translates from Ojibwe to ‘slow down’ + ‘wolf’ and though the two words are not meant to be directly linked, Zoon only navigates with purposeful intent. That is reflected in the final new LP single to be shared with accompanying video for the dreamy, Dodem.

In Ojibwe, ‘dodem’ means the clan you’re from, says Daniel. I’m from the Ma’iingan clan: the wolf clan. I wanted to honour that word because I learnt a lot about where I come from. I wrote ‘dodem’ while living on the reservation with my father. He had taken me in during one of my worst relapses and I felt very vulnerable but used my time there to write. I remember clearly my uncle saying ‘that’s a hit!,’ I remember thinking maybe a rez hit.” Watch the video for Dodem via YouTube below.

Zoon has been universally celebrated since the release of their widely acclaimed 2020 debut, ‘Bleached Wavves’. Their return with Bekka Ma’iingan offers a deepening experiential journey. It offers to transport the listener into new conversations through Zoon’s ever evolving and exploratory lens, and their freedom seeking, both musically and personally.

To create the full-length album, Monkman recruited Polaris Music Prize inaugural winner Owen Pallett to compose sweeping string arrangements, then performed by the FAMES Orchestra. Grammy nominated Michael Peter Olsen, who is a regular in Zoon’s live band, played on the new record as did Zoon’s drummer Andrew McLeod/Sunnsetter. Grammy Award winner Mark Lawson  mixed the album, and in a burst of creative collaboration, after meeting in Montreal, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo played on album track Niizh Manidoowig (2 spirit).

Listen to + watch previously released videos for album singles A Language Disappears. The beautiful lead track from ‘Bekka Ma’iingan,’ features Andrew McLeod/Sunnsetter who is also Zoon’s drummer, on supporting vocals. It was immediately celebrated by Dominionated, CBC ‘q’, Exclaim, Northern Transmissions, Earmilk, Brooklyn Vegan and many others.

Second single, Manitou was premiered by The Fader, and supported by a host of other music media and music blogs including Northern Transmissions, Obsessive Compulsive and the singles was featured in The New York Times ‘The Playlist’ as a pick of Jon Pareles. And watch the visualizer for Gaagige, featuring a swirling kaleidoscope of flowing visuals animated by TRUdy Erin Elmore.

Zoon will be playing with The Rural Alberta Advantage on select dates in May, and expect an announcement of more shows very soon.

Tour dates 2023
Mon May 22 @ The Capital – Fredericton, NB
Tue May 23 @ The Capital – Fredericton, NB
Wed May 24 @ PEI Brewing Company – Charlottetown PEI
Thu May 25 @ Light House Arts Centre – Halifax, NS (8:00 PM)
Fri May 26 @ Tide + Boar – Moncton, NB
Sun May 28  @ The Rock House,  St. John’s, NL (8:00 PM)
Fri Jun 2 @  National Arts Centre w/ Status/Non-Status – Ottawa ON (8:30 PM)

Supporting The Rural Alberta Advantage

In 2022, Zoon shared EPs, ‘Big Pharma’ and ‘A Sterling Mumuration’. The former reached #2 and the latter reached #1 on the NACC Canada Chart. Additionally, Astum (ft. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson) was #1 at CBC3 and #3 on the Indigenous Music Countdown, in addition to ‘Best of the Year’ mentions from CBCMusic and Exclaim! for 2022.

Both EPs followed the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Bleached Wavves,’ which was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize in 2021. 

Also in 2022, Zoon celebrated another Polaris Music Prize Short List Nomination, with ‘Sewn Back Together’ (Arts & Crafts) by OMBIIGIZI, the widely praised and celebrated project Daniel shares with Adam Sturgeon from Status/NonStatus. Sewn Back Together/OMBIIGIZI were nominated for a 2023 Juno Award.

Zoon Bekka Ma'iingan cover artwork

Bekka Ma’iingan track list
01. All Around You
02. Brave New World (Without You)
03. Care
04. Dodem 
05. Niizh Manidoowig (2 spirit)
06. Awesiinh (A-Way-See)
07. Manitou
08. A Language Disappears
09. Gaagige
10. Ashes in a Vase

Grab ‘Bekka Ma’iingan’ here.
Grab ‘Bekka Ma’iingan’ on limited edition vinyl here.

More about ‘Bekka Ma’iingan
Zoon created ‘Bleached Wavves’ with extremely limited, often broken gear. They worked through frustrating, lengthy delays and yet managed to reverse engineer a masterpiece of a debut. With sophomore album, ‘Bekka Ma’iingan’ (Bay-ka Mo-Een-Gan) a broad spectrum of possibilities, lush orchestration, resources, collaborators and friends all supported the process. ‘Bleached Wavves’ provoked us to face many difficult questions and reckon with a deeply uncomfortable and painful history. ‘Bekka Ma’iingan’ continues to explore their Indigenous and life experience, and while still clutching to the unresolved, it moves us more softly and sweepingly towards acceptance. Within moments into the lead track All Around You otherworldly strings are ushered in, and one is assured, as always with Zoon (the intricate musical work of Daniel Monkman), to expect the unexpected. ‘Bekka Ma’iingan’ translates directly from Ojibway to ‘slow down’ and ‘wolf.’ The two words aren’t meant to be directly linked but considering the past few years, Zoon has enjoyed slowing down within the space of creating this new album. Ma’iingan is also a reference to the wolf clan Daniel is a part of, a clan handed down from their father, a clan-connection Daniel only became aware of at their father’s funeral.Gloriously intact is the shoegaze core Monkman has become known for. It rapturously arrives in full force with tracks Care and Dodem. Zoon intentionally pushes through the previously unexcavated in his work. “Shoegaze, to me, always lacked colour,” remarks Monkman. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of diversity, or intricacy to it, yet it still felt really accessible, that’s why I loved My Bloody Valentine so much.” Zoon is not content to paint their work with a muted palette or stay within the traditional confines of shoegaze, but then again, they’ve already shown us as much.Monkman proved this not only with their Polaris Music Prize shortlisted, and internationally regaled debut, ‘Bleached Wavves,’ but followed with their two EPs from last year, and the sonic swings they were taking were apparent. ‘Big Pharma’ featured Oil Pastel/Dopesick – a single with Cadence Weapon that effortlessly fused shoegaze and hip hop – and Astum (feat. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson) which garnered 2022 ‘Best of The Year’ accolades from both CBC + Exclaim!. On the second EP, ‘A Sterling Murmuration,’ Daniel unearthed decades old material, that sounded as fresh and as original as anything else Zoon has released over the past few years. Add that to a back-to-back Polaris shortlist album nomination for their collaborative work with Ombiigizi, alongside composing for film and television and we are made blissfully aware that Zoon’s musical instincts know no limits or bounds. With ‘Bekka Ma’iingan,’ Monkman is continuing to rebuff any limits or expectations yet again, and fully embracing the adventure and expanse of what’s next.Cue collaborating with Polaris Music Prize inaugural winner Owen Pallett to compose sweeping string arrangements, then performed by the FAMES Orchestra. Grammy nominated Michael Peter Olsen, who is a regular in Zoon’s live band, played on the new record as did Zoon’s drummer Andrew McLeod/Sunnsetter who additionally sings on the first single from ‘Bekka Ma’iingan’, A Language Disappears. Grammy Award winning Mark Lawson mixed the album, and in a burst of creative collaboration, after meeting in Montreal, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo played on album track Niizh Manidoowig (2 Spirit). Zoon has steadfastly woven their Indigenous experience and activism into every fabric of their work. The first single to be released from ‘Bekka Ma’iingan,’ A Language Disappears, acknowledges part of a deeply hurtful history for Indigenous people: the fear of their language being forgotten and the slow abandoning of culture due to the fading conversations, traditions and a people, by past and present colonialism. 

This was something I started to fear when I became a Born Again Indian in my late 20’s,”says Monkman. “For a lot of native folks, we’re taught to hide our identity, to keep us safe from the outside world. Somewhere along a native person’s journey, they start to ask questions about their heritage and where they come from.” For Monkman that meant learning about their tribe and clan, followed by language.“I started to see that learning the language was nearly impossible at the time and feared how one day Ojibway may never be spoken.”Safety and wellness plays into another central theme to Monkman’s new work in acknowledging their own ‘2-spirit’ identity. This comes forward in the instrumental album track, titled Niizh Manidoowig (2 Spirit).

The choice to more openly share that side of themselves now, is partly in hope of supporting others who may not feel or be in a safe space to show or be themselves yet.“I wrote ‘Niizh Manidoowig’ while thinking about our ancestors who may have been niizh. I found a lot of peace knowing that there were others way before me. Sometimes, growing up not around your own people, you start to forget about your past.” It was a long journey for Monkman. “Growing up on the rez with my dad’s family in the late 2000’s was like entering a different world,” says Monkman, who always felt like an outsider because of being of mixed blood. When they were young, they connected with a queer/2-spirit person. “I knew then I was different and could feel it in the way I was perceived in the world.” Monkman knew the word ‘ninjichaag,’ which means ‘the spirit within’ and after they left the rez, they would run into others who had also formerly teased Monkman about their energy. “I always wondered if they too were ‘ninjichaag.’

This album is about acknowledging a part of me that I felt was there the whole time.

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