Walter Kahpeechoose

Turning Pain into Poetry: Walter Kahpeechoose Mixes a Self-Taught Music Journey

He’s turned pain into poetry and added those words to his beats and now Walter Kahpeechoose is producing the life that he wants to live. He is from Big River First Nation in Treaty Six Territory and he grew up in Saskatchewan’s foster care system. Kahpeechoose started writing poetry as a teen and that flowed into music and a dream of becoming a professional musician. He found a microphone at a local thrift store, built a computer and taught himself to make beats. Continuously refining his craft, he’s bettering himself to improve as a producer. 

Motivated by the pain and trauma he experienced as a teen growing up in an unhealthy environment, he didn’t have role models or peers to rely on. Venting in music helped him escape reality. Unfortunately, that escape was temporary. “Sooner or later, you're gonna have to come back to that reality and realize that life is not all about escaping, it's about facing it,” he reflects. 

“That motivated me to do this type of thing, to create music where people can actually hear a story and relate to it. Because a lot of people don't have that sense of direction in life with what they want to do. What motivated me on this creative path was to help others see that they're not alone and to help them see that there's a bigger picture in life than just growing up with what you see around you,” he continues, thinking about alcoholism, drugs, gang life and the streets, things he saw and worked to get away from.  

Without guidance or resources, he learned through library books and youtube tutorials. Unable to afford tuition, he’s been self-taught but hopes one day he can learn more formally. That said, the way he has learned shaped his sound. “Something about doing it informal, and creating your own ways and creating your own sounds, something about that is unique and raw and real,” he reflects. 

"Something about doing it informal, and creating your own ways and creating your own sounds, something about that is unique and raw and real."

His advice for people looking to learn informally is to go to their local library or search online to create their own learning journey without going into debt. “Knowledge is power,” he affirms and he encourages people to seek it out through books and audiobooks when finances are an issue. 

Some of the obstacles Kahpeechoose faced were around not having resources like a phone or a laptop so he would ghostwrite or sell rhymes to make enough money to buy what he needed. He also struggled with people in his life who held him back, used him and didn’t have his best interests at heart. He learned to keep people who believed in him around who helped him overcome obstacles. 

Illustration by Shaikara David

Living the way he did, he didn’t have a chance to be a kid. He went to school every day trying to find a way out, listing his goals and seeking solutions to get out of the rut he was in, brainstorming ways to make money, get his own place. He would drag himself out of bed even when he didn’t feel like it. Struggling to succeed, his own procrastination and lack of confidence sometimes held him back. Other times, he was overwhelmed and had to take things one step at a time. 

Many people tried to get Kahpeechoose involved with gangs and drugs but he knew better. He did end up skipping classes and stopped caring about school. His grades suffered and he dropped out of school for a couple years. Eventually, he realized he needed school and that the people encouraging him to ditch classes weren’t looking out for his future or for him. 

Thinking back to what he wishes he could tell his younger self, Kahpeechoose says, “I wish somebody told me to not rush yourself. Do not grow up so fast. The thing is some people, they have no choice but to grow up. Tomorrow is not always going to be the same. It's not going to be forever.”

To maintain his wellness, he stays hydrated, prays to the Creator, and plans his time out. When he’s struggling with life, he writes down his feelings in lyrics, getting it out on paper and turning it into art. He makes a beat to go with the words, mixes it, releases and promotes it. “I don't care whether people like it or not. I just want people to know that mental health is important,” he shares. One of the songs he wrote about mental health has had over a hundred thousand plays on Spotify and bringing that level of awareness to such an important issue has been exciting for him. Having people reach out on Tiktok and tell him about how the music has impacted them has been encouraging. 

Outside of creativity and self care, Kahpeechoose recommends therapy, elder services and medication if needed, going for a walk, swimming, walking and going to concerts. “Happy and good vibes is the way to go in life. But if you feel like you cannot do it, then try to get help and talk to somebody,” he urges. 

"Inspiration comes from anywhere. It's the most beautiful thing."

When it comes to inspiration, Kahpeechoose is inspired by other artists, his culture, friends and peers, people who take the time to provide feedback, good and bad, and by the love he feels for himself. The people who look up to him motivate him as well. He used to be a perfectionist but that has changed. “I would rather be perfect with my imperfections and draw inspiration from others and everything around me to be a better me and to teach others to love themselves and to be better for themselves,” he says. 

In closing, he encourages Indigenous youth, urging, “Love yourself, inspire others, motivate. Live a positive lifestyle where you can but don't look down on people. Always remain humble. Always have much love and respect in your life and respect yourself, honour yourself and teach others to do the same.”

Turning pain into poetry, adding words to his beats, Walter Kahpeechoose is producing the life he wants to live. With a thrift store microphone, youtube tutorials and some library books, he invested time into tomorrow and sweat into swagger. His inspiration coming from everywhere, his music and confidence can take him anywhere.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
  • Date
    April 23, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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