MALI OBOMSAWIN is an award-winning bassist, songwriter and composer from Abenaki First Nation at Odanak. With an expansive background in American roots, rock, and jazz, Obomsawin carries several music traditions. Mali’s debut album Sweet Tooth, has received international acclaim since its release in October of 2022 (Out of Your Head), including rave reviews in The Guardian, JazzTimes, and NPR. She spent the early years of her career recording and touring internationally with beloved folk-rock band Lula Wiles, who released three albums and an EP on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Her work as a bandleader has brought her to premiere festivals and venues across North America, including Montreal Jazz Festival and Harlem’s National Jazz Museum. In 2023, Mali will be scoring the upcoming film SUGARCANE, directed by Julian Brave Noisecat and Emily Kassie.
An in-demand bassist in the folk and jazz circuits, Mali appears often as an accompanist with contemporaries Jake Blount and Lizzie No, and has performed at festivals like Newport and Philly Folk. She can also be found in galleries and creative music spaces with the likes of Peter Apfelbaum, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble.
Obomsawin received the 2022 International Folk Music Association’s “Rising Tide Award,” which honors new generation artists who embody the values and ideals of the folk community through their creative work, community role, and public voice. They also received the New England Foundation of the Arts’ “New Work New England” award in 2022. Mali is a member of The Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band and Indigenous Performance Productions’ Welcome To Indian Country. As a composer-arranger, they scored the upcoming film “We Are The Warriors,” collaborated with Red Sky Performance and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Palaver Strings. Beyond the stage Mali is a community organizer and advocate for Indigenous rights, environmental justice and landback. She works as a writer and educator with Sunlight Media Collective, a Wabanaki-driven media team, to document and promote stories at the intersection of environmental justice and Tribal sovereignty. Her journalism has been published recently in Smithsonian, National Performance Network, and the Boston Globe. In 2020, Mali co-founded Bomazeen Land Trust, the first ever Wabanaki land trust, where she currently serves as executive director.
Mali studied Upright Bass at Berklee College of Music from 2013-2014. From 2014-2018, Mali studied jazz and improvised music at Dartmouth College with mentor Taylor Ho Bynum, and had the opportunity to work with Peter Apfelbaum (NY Hieroglyphics, Don Cherry), original members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Mary Halverson, Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, and Tomas Fujiwara, among others. During college, she was a twice attendee of the selective Acoustic Music Seminar in Savannah, GA. She toured and taught music extensively across the U.S., Canada, and overseas during her time at Dartmouth and Berklee, and graduated with a B.A. in Comparative Literature and Government from Dartmouth College in 2018.
“Telling Indigenous stories through the language of jazz is not a new phenomenon,” Obomsawin explains. “My people have had to innovate endlessly to get our stories heard – learning to express ourselves in French, English, Abenaki… but sometimes words fail us, and we must use sound. Sweet Tooth is a testament to this.”
Her most recent album, titled Sweet Tooth is a celebration of Indigenous innovation, and an ingeniously envisioned debut for this composer-bandleader.