To think, it was just over a decade ago that Wanbli Ceya aka JUQ, opted to undertake songwriting as a way of coping with his surroundings. A 13 year old Oglala, stuck in dinky small town Iowa, divorced messy parents, moved to a household that was unfortunately plagued with abuse, psychosis, & alcohol, a toxic school life. But with some strange stroke of fate & guidance, Wanbli came out alive, scarred but pure & driven. Fast forward to now, the 24 year old singer / songwriter is near 4 years removed from any remnants of the life that was once his reality and is now unlearning characteristics of white man world and relearning lakolwicohan as a way of healing his past and those around him. With the release of his latest project “bunniez n’ bearz”, he intends to allow his personal growth unfold for those opting to listen and are eager to dive into all its depth around Lakota love, sexuality, & mental health.
The opening track is a title track, driving primarily by a traditional flute provided by Jack Holland of Crazy Flute, the only feature on the project, that backs Wanbli’s almost spoken word verse / warped vocals while noises from around campfire play in the background. “This track I think obligates people to listen”, Wanbli says about the record. “The warping of my vocals, the sometimes slight overpowerment by the flute… telling my story of being in love with my Lakota women & men, and the ethereal experience of feeling like your love can save your language, people culture and even the mental health behind it… It just sort of works to me.” And then the following section is what he describes as the “couples” of the project itself, the “her & him” love songs (“lilili”, “unforgettable”) & the “statement” love songs (“cutebutt”, “free”). “I wanted to have songs that served a distinct purpose” Wanbli says, “The statement love songs make these definitive quips like ‘this is what I like and I’m not afraid of it nor do I care that people know anymore’ and the her & him songs are to go more in depth into the relationships I have with this Lakota winyan & this Lakota wicasa. I think the way the songs progress really live in the overall theme of the project as a whole and how the intro track leads into all of it.” The record that gets excluded from this dynamic but still contributes heavily to the bigger picture is the raunchy but still clean number “bun”, named after a term commonly used for sex amongst Lakota reservations. “I wanted a song that juxta positioned the whole overall theme of love and addressed the toxic hook up culture that exists in Indian Country today, confronting the presence of hypersexuality, mental health issues and various other components, that cause the circumstances we’re finding today, good & bad. I just want people to aware”, Wanbli says. The project ends with a simple PSA, be free, understand yourself and your sexuality and dig deep to make you the healthiest you that you were meant to be. A poignant way to finish such a prolific album.
“I like being back home”, Wanbli says, “The chaos, in the most offkilter sense is much more peaceful cause it’s just my people here, It still feels like we can come out of all this and I feel I’m a very big component to our inevitable healing and restoration of our way of life & language. From the release of this new project to the next one “nya” which drops November 9th, to my short film “tempo = matriarchy; a winyan’s touch…” to the initiative I’m pushing to launch “mni: a lakota immersion tipi village”… I’m experiencing this upward ascension I wouldn’t know anywhere else. Things are getting more exciting and I’ve been happier.” With the release of his 1st project, after leaving a label and
management and now running his own imprint “oglalapuppies.”, Wanbli aka JUQ is sure to make a splash, truly as himself. Take a listen to the project on all online stores / spaces: