Keshena Musician Keeps In Tune With His Menominee Nation Roots

By Trevor Keller | October 28, 2021


Wade Fernandez says his music is hard to pin down into a single genre. He says people will ask if he considers himself a rock musician, a blues player, or if he’s more into country, folk, jazz or even flamenco.

“Well, I dabble with it all,” says Fernandez.

Fernandez, or Wiciwen Apis-Mahwaew (Walks With The Black Wolf), is a musician and educator from the Menominee Nation in northeast Wisconsin.

“A lot of my music has a strong thread of growing up on the Menominee reservation and being part of the Menominee culture,” says Fernandez.

Whether it’s a straight-ahead blues tune or a song featuring Native American flute and lyrics, Fernandez’s music often references his tribe’s land, culture and people. He says the inspiration for most of these songs comes naturally.

“As soon as I get my hands on an instrument, it’s like a song wants to come out,” Fernandez says, “I feel like that’s what songwriting is. You feel that faucet starting to drip and you think, well let me just open it up a little more and let it flow, and then the song comes out.”

Fernandez’s music has allowed him to travel the world. He’s undertaken multiple international tours and frequently performs across North America and Europe.

“I love to perform. I love to travel. I love seeing the world,” says Fernandez.

In recent years, those performances have become a family affair. Fernandez plays some concerts solo, but he often plays live with his son Quintin on drums.

“He’s been touring with me since he’s 11,” Fernandez says, “I love stepping onto the stage and just feeling what is needed in that moment. It’s a special thing to share that with your children.”

Even with all his success, Fernandez is most proud that his music has allowed him to share his culture with audiences around the world.

“What’s really gratifying to me is to be able to share everything that you are, your ancestors, your culture, the music that flows through you,” Fernandez says, “We are a combination of everything that came before us and everything that’s around us in the present still.”

Trevor Keller

Trevor Keller

Trevor Keller is Executive Producer of “Wisconsin Life” for PBS Wisconsin. He loves photography and is always looking for a new Wisconsin park, trail or scenic overlook to explore.

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