Bridging cultures

Submitted photo.

Show bringing together established and up-and-coming Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists stopping in P.A. Sunday

A show that’s just one piece of a larger project intended to unite Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists from across Canada is making its Prince Albert debut Sunday night.

The new Constellations tour is a nation-wide project bringing together music and arts, featuring appearances by some of Canada’s well known and up and coming Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.

Prince Albert’s leg of the tour will include the band JULY TALK, Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene, Indigenous hip-hop duo Mob Bounce, Anishinaabe musician and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Wolastoq vocal artist and composer Jeremy Dutcher, Inuk Singer Elisapie, Quebec-based folk-pop singer-songwriter Safia Nolin, poet and author Damian Rogers and 2017 Griffin Poetry prize-winning Nisga’a writer Jordan Abel.

Other legs of the tour will bring in other acts, such as Sam Roberts, Naomi Klein, A Tribe Called Red and Feist.

The project is the brainchild of Collett and of Jarret Martineau, the Indigenous co-owner of the music label RPM.

The project, in part, came out of Collett’s other project, an arts organization in Toronto called The Basement Revue.

“The Basement Revue (is) a cross-disciplinary variety show, half lit, half music. We’ve done some crazy collaborations between the likes of Feist and Michael Ondaatje,” he said.

“We’re both artists, Damian Rodgers curates the literary element and I curate the musical element. We started building relationships with Indigenous artists, and that just became a part of what we do in a very organic way.”

One of those relationships was with Martineau.

“We pitched together for some funding to do this tour in consultation with — artists like Leanne Simpson, who is a big part of what this show is built around as a next wave Indigenous artist. She told us that innovation views on a pretty good job of getting Indigenous artists in front of a white, hip Toronto audience.”

With this tour, Collett said the intent is to turn the table a bit and access more of an Indigenous audience to reflect the two sides, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, coming together.

“The point is to go to places like (Prince Albert) and try to make what we’re doing accessible to everyone.”

The show itself will take the form of a revue, with each artist responsible for a few pieces. Collett said it helps the artists push each other.

And while there are bigger names, such as July Talk, on the tour, they’re there because of the up-and-comers they get to perform alongside.

“(July Talk) gets lots of radio play. They’re a big band. But what they’re interesting about this, and what fans of July Talk get out of this is they get to see what the artists they love … are passionate about. July Talk is passionate about being involved in this tour,” Collett said.

“But the four Indigenous next wave artists? They’re (freaking) amazing. You never get to see this kind of combination of the next wave Indigenous artists on the same bill. It’s a rare opportunity. It’s their legacy to be witnessed. These are artists that are breaking out in amazing ways. That to me is a very exciting thing to be a part of.”

While Prince Albert is one of 13 stops on the tour portion of the project, the project itself is much bigger than just a series of shows.

New Constellations also features a two-part mentorship program, where established artists including Shad, and DJ NDN, and artists such as July Talk who are on the main tour, will work with youth at six In-Community workshops, including two Indigenous communities, to teach Indigenous youth creative writing, song writing, music creation and DJ/production skills. A digital mentorship was also available.

“It’s a big project with many moving parts. Fifty plus artists are a part of this project,” Collett said.

“There’s also a documentary film component that’s happening with director Tracy Deer who is the co-creator and director of Mohawk Girl. She’s out on the road with us right now with a film crew documenting the show. It’s a big project.

“There has been some pretty amazing and inspiring momentum added to this whole thing.”