A Tribe Called Red
By Amina Ghadieh
Photo by Timothy Nguyen
A Tribe Called Red are set to perform during a live broadcast of the 2017 JUNO Awards in Ottawa on April 2. This year, the DJ group consisting of Ian Campeau, Tim 2oolman, Dan General, and Bear Witness, were nominated for three different categories: Jack Richardson for Producer of the Year, Electronic Album of the Year, and Video of the Year for “R.E.D.”.
Although they won Breakthrough Group of the Year in 2014, they did not submit for the category of Indigenous Music Album of the Year because they said other upcoming indigenous artists needed the recognition and visibility more than they did.
The band dedicates themselves towards uplifting and praising success from indigenous communities. Their understanding of how visibility and representation are intrinsic towards having conversations raises awareness for the resistance of indigenous people. Ian Campeau describes being inspired by the Idle No More movement in a CBC interview, and then looking towards social media to help them grow their consciousness and involvement in social justice movements.
We Are The Halluci Nation is a unitive concept brought to A Tribe Called Red by indigenous poet John Trudell. In the intro track, Trudell describes an intangible yet undeniable solidarity amongst prevailing native diasporas. His poetry sets the stage for a radical album featuring diverse voices, most notably collaborations with Brooklyn-born hip-hop artist/rapper Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Iraqi-Canadian MC Narcy, Colombian singer-songwriter Lido Pimienta, and Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq.
The album is closed by a continued description by Trudell of the ALie (Alien) Nation, a nation that divides people from the land by means of exploitation of natural resources and intergenerational trauma inflicted by residential schools. Identifying the unity of native people globally as the Halluci Nation before identifying the common enemy in the form of European colonialism and environmental destruction, relates to the sense of hope to which A Tribe Called Red wishes to inspire amongst colonized indigenous people. Their music stands to instigate much needed conversations about how decolonization is intrinsic in saving the environment.
A Tribe Called Red not only uses their music to unite indigenous people resisting colonialism, they use pivotal imagery to place value in all forms of resistance. They are known to show stereotypical imagery of indigenous people during their performances in attempt to confront and deconstruct racist caricatures created by their oppressors, simultaneously creating positive representation from the ground up. Their activism is not only embedded in their music, it is intrinsic to their art. •
Silla and Rise
By Owen Maxwell
Photos Provided and by Jerry Grajewski
While throat singing is a rare enough treat on its own, it’s hard to imagine anyone adding dance beats to the mix, but the idea was just different enough to work for Ottawa-Nunavut collaboration Silla + Rise, who have scored a JUNO nomination for Indigenous Music Album Of The Year with their album Debut.
“It’s a clash of Inuit traditional and dance floor mixology,” said Ottawa’s Rise Ashen. “It’s like New York meets Iqaluit, and I live between those two so I’m in a good place for it.”
This strange brew of music started long ago on a side project for Ashen.
“I met Cynthia almost 10 years ago on a project about world music, and I was looking for a throat singer, and we kept talking after,” said Ashen, the beat maker who produces the backbone of the band. “I was hired for Nature Nocturne, and I brought them in to do an Inuit portion of my show on a bunch of different northern cultures, and it kick-started the record.”
Silla (formerly of the group Tumivut) is made up of throat singers Cynthia Pitsiulak and Charlotte Qamaniq, whose performance dynamic forced Ashen to evolve his writing in response.
“Throat singing is traditionally a rhythmic push and pull battle that can speed and slow, and part of the game is keeping up and not breaking,” said Ashen. “Sometimes it falls apart and we all laugh but sometimes amazing things happen, you get a lot more interaction with the crowd which didn’t happen before with throat singing.”
Despite their vastly different backgrounds, Ashen believes their music isn’t just constructive but political too.
“We’re coming from different worlds and approaches, I grew up with hip hop and house and my music is based in jazz and African drumming,” said Ashen. “The whole gist of the collaboration is that clash and that is an artistic representation of reconciliation, saying yes we bring different cultural aspects but look at what we can do when work together.”
Ashen wanted to create a sense of cultural appreciation by working with Silla, while also finding a way to honour the music he’s bringing as well.
“Being Canadian it was fundamental to the sound, creating it from the ground up,” said Ashen. “There’s a history of oppression and we want to embody the reconciliation and respect the music on both sides.”
As for the JUNO nomination, Ashen is excited to be a part of the music’s evolution.
“Being the non-indigenous member of the band, it’s a beautiful honour and they’re sharing their culture on such an intimate level,” said Ashen. “Creating new expressions of the culture and being able to get press for something like that allows us to further the music through more exposure.” •
By Owen Maxwell
Photo by Ahmad Balshe
While many Ottawa musicians often have trouble getting attention outside of the city, local rap star Belly has been making a name for himself for years.
Thanks to a previous Juno win, a 2016 SOCAN award, writing songs for the Ottawa Senators, and speaking out against a police raid on his home studio, the Palestinian-Canadian artist known to friends and family as Ahmad Balshe has held the public’s attention for years. His well-earned respect has even earned him a nod in the lobby of his alma mater, Hillcrest High School.
Belly has worked with The Weeknd, Snoop Dogg and Juicy J, as well as Young Thug, Future, Ty Dolla $ign, and Ashanti on his latest record Inzombia.
But his earlier record from last year, Another Day In Paradise, is bringing him praise once again thanks to a JUNO nomination for Rap Recording of the Year, along with a Fan Choice award.
Working hard for years, Belly was releasing records back in 2005 to much smaller crowds. He went to writing for other artists, leading him to work with The Weeknd and even Beyoncé, which brought industry focus back to the powerful talent he is.
He kept his solo work going by using this work to lift him, throwing cuts on his records along the way, and letting each side of his career boost the others. He’s credited his ability to focus again on his own work to artists like Drake among others but it’s hard to ignore the amount of work he’s put in to get as far as he has.
His trap infused hip hop has grown since he started and earned him a record deal with Roc Nation after Jay-Z invited him over to talk about his new music. This has lead to the latest act in his long and interesting career, going from solo to behind the scenes and back to solo as a new artist with even more accolades and style than before.
Not letting his fame interrupt his beliefs, he recently pulled out of a Jimmy Kimmel appearance with the Weeknd to protest Donald Trump’s spot on the show. Although he says he’s not inherently a political artist and more of a humanitarian, he insists he will say what needs to be said.
With two records in 2016 and his collaborations fostering a snowballing of creative growth it doesn’t seem like anything can stop Belly from being not only Ottawa’s biggest name in decades but Canada’s as well. •
By Laura Jasmine
Photo by Jasmina Vrcko
The Ottawa heavy metal band Annihilator is the highest selling heavy metal band in Canada, with over three million records sold worldwide during their impressive career. Their 2015 album “Suicide Society” is nominated for the Album of the Year at the 2017 Juno Awards.
Front man Jeff Waters started Annihilator with his childhood friend John Bates in 1984 in Ottawa with early influences such as Exodus, Anthrax, and Slayer, and Bates being very much into Alice Cooper and other theatrical influences. Putting a band together proved to be a bigger challenge than Watters had expected.
“Most of the guys just wanted to look the part and party, but I wanted to do the hard work first to get good at what we were doing and then enjoy the success,” he said. “When the guys wouldn’t show up for rehearsal, I’d just record all the instruments myself. Before I realized, I was turning into this one man band as well as a recording engineer/producer/mixer/mastering engineer. All this was done out of necessity since I had no money and there was no one else to do it.”
After Waters and Bates parted ways, Waters moved to Vancouver in search of success. The band’s first record Alice In Hell was an instant success, and he suddenly had the opportunity and finances to make his dreams come true.
“I went very quickly from being on welfare, sitting in the basement while trying to write and record an album, to literally recording in big studios and touring on fancy tour buses with huge bands that I’ve only dreamed of meeting maybe in a meet and greet someday. After our third record, I bought a house, had a recording studio built in and learned how record. And that saved my butt with Annihilator,” Waters said.
After four big albums, Annihilator’s success started slowing down, and Waters relocated back to Ottawa in 2003. In 2007 things started looking up again, the new records were selling, and the band was back playing big festivals.
The band is currently in studio recording their 16th album, and Waters has taken a new approach for writing this time.
“I have these little notes for myself for the new record. I need to stay away from certain things and be a little bit more myself, and just go back to the early days when I just did my thing. By weird luck the upcoming album has some roots to our second album “Never Neverland”, which was our biggest one. And the reason why I think it was so big was because we weren’t overthinking it,” he said.
Before the new album’s release this fall, Annihilator will be embarking on a 16-stop Canadian Tour, and headlining at Wacken festival in Germany this summer. Waters said it feels good to be nominated for a JUNO after almost giving up on success in North America.
“We’re finally touring here for the first time in 24 years, and it’s a huge deal to me. I’m 51 and this is the coolest time in my life,” he said. “And I’ve got a feeling this new album is going to be a pretty good one for us.” •