Groove – Episode #103: Mali Obomsawin
Striding out of the Odanak First Nation and onto international stages with thunderous aplomb, Mali Obomsawin is a bassist, singer, and composer who doesn’t just play the bass — she crafts sonic narratives. Her debut album, Sweet Tooth, is an audio testament of stories weaved into jazz rhythms, celebrated by The Guardian, NPR, and JazzTimes as one of the best releases of 2022.
Mali fuses diverse melodies—chorale-like spirituals, folk harmonies, and the intense echo of free jazz — into a captivating tapestry of sound. Acknowledged by Grammy.com as one of the Top 10 Emerging Artists to Watch in 2023, she creates a musical milieu that is entirely her own.
Her music provides a platform to articulate Indigenous stories, breathing life into tales that transcend words. This innovative process has propelled her to the stages of Montreal’s International Jazz Festival (where she once again performed this year) and the National Jazz Museum of Harlem. A seasoned journey woman in the world of music, Mali’s bass has thundered in the company of folk-rock band Lula Wiles (friends and fellow Berklee Music students) and an array of collaborators like Jake Blount and Lizzie No.
Her talent is not unnoticed, as demonstrated by a collection of accolades, including the 2022 International Folk Music Association’s “Rising Tide Award” and SouthArts’ Jazz Road touring grant in 2023. But her influence reaches beyond the stage: she is a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. She co-founded Bomazeen Land Trust, the first-ever Wabanaki land trust, and continues to write, educate, and inspire through her role with the Sunlight Media Collective. In her hands, the bass becomes a voice for the unheard, a call to action, and a vibrant thread in the ever-evolving tapestry of jazz.
Enjoy the conversation…