Cover Image for Black Mohawk Musician Julian Taylor on Spiritual Wellbeing

Black Mohawk Musician Julian Taylor on Spiritual Wellbeing

Avneet Takhar

5 min read

Julian Taylor has strong roots connected to his Afro-Indigenous lineage, being of West Indian and Mohawk heritage and born in the bustling city of Toronto, with a deep influence from family in Kahnawake and his uncle- who is the conductor of Afro-centric music choral group, Nathaniel Dett Choral.

Taylor’s folk and soul music has put him on the map, as a 5-time nominee of the Native American Music Awards (NAMA) and at the top 5 of the CBC Music Chart with his touching song Seeds which was released a day after the announcement of residential school burials at Kamloops, and a year after George Floyd’s death.

Taylor's something of a unique entity in this modern age, bringing light to the fact that he is an artist who nurtures healing and spirituality through music. Listening to his song lyrics, you instantly feel a deeper meaning to his harmonious words.

Graciously speaking to us after a new album release and a busy tour across Europe (which is starting up again in North America), Taylor tells us more about his story.

As a West Indian and Indigenous artist, what does your identity mean to you?

It’s changed a little bit over time in terms of how I feel deep inside. When I was very young I was so proud of my heritage and then as I got older and became a teenager I felt ashamed of who I was.

Now that some of the people before me are no longer with us in physical form, I hear them speaking to me and guiding me through spirit voices and I’m extremely proud of who I am and my heritage. I will admit to feeling insecure sometimes but that’s when I let outside voices in. When that happens I always make time to silently return to my centre and that’s to the people who love me and whom I love.

During the pandemic and on the historical day of June 19 (Juneteenth) you released your single Human Race to a great online embrace. How has the reception been from your respective communities with regards to your music?

I think we get what we give and rather than be too worried about how people receive me I tend to lean towards how I can be of assistance to others. I love featuring artists like myself on my Jukebox radio show and take pride in shinning a light on them and their work.

The fact that my music has even resonated with people anywhere is such an honour and gift because all I’ve every wanted to do is unite people. I hope that I am.

Are there any traditional ways or practices that you feel have helped you on the path to where you are today?

Smudging is something that I do and meditation. Also being with nature has helped me create as well as being with likeminded people in the community who face the same kind of things that I have and do.

Sometimes we need to hear and feel what others like us are going through, in order to deepen our own humanity and understanding.

What would be your advice or resources, to burgeoning musicians or creatives who come from minority backgrounds that want to break into the industry?

I think like I said before connecting with people that share many of the things that you might share in terms of identity and who’ve also experienced similar things in being a minority is crucial to finding a balance and wellbeing in yourself.

The other thing is to learn how to call your shot with confidence and the only way to learn how to do that is from our own mistakes. So don’t be afraid to fail. Tomorrow is another day.

What’s next for you, Julian? 

I’ve been touring a lot this past little while and intend to do much more. I am also working on new material. My most recent albums have been really heavy especially on me and while it’s hard for me to help it, I think I may try and lighten that load a little for the health and wellbeing of my own body, mind and spirit. Famous last words, LOL.

You just toured Europe and are gearing up for North America and the U.S - how's it all going?!  

It just finished and was incredible. Catching up on sleep. Then right back at it.

Listen to Taylor’s new album, Beyond the Reservoir, catch him on tour and learn more about him here.