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Music and story-telling to help bridge divide between first peoples and non-aboriginals

When Ian Campeau hits the stage at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts this Saturday night he hopes to create a vibe that will help aboriginal students get in touch with their roots and stimulate a discussion to bridge the divide between first peoples and the rest of Canadian culture.

“We embrace our culture and hope to bring that to other aboriginals,” said Campeau, one of the founding members of A Tribe Called Red, an Ottawa-based trio of DJs known to blend dub-step music with traditional native pow-wow tracks. “We’re creating a culture that’s opening a door to an important conversation that has to happen between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.”

Campeau, aka DJ NDN, and his partners – Dan General, a two time Canadian Disco Mix Club champion who goes by the moniker DJ Shub, and Bear Witness – will perform at A Drum Social & Gathering of Stories. Hosted by the university’s Turtle Island Aboriginal Education Centre and the St. Clair College First Nation, Metis and Inuit Centre, the event will celebrate Aboriginal/First Nations artists and story-tellers, as well as community role models.

“We really want to highlight our talent, and it’s quite significant,” said Turtle Island director Russell Nahdee. “We want to highlight their achievements.”

Also on the bill that day will be three-time world boxing champion and Olympic hopeful Mary Spencer and Jospeh Boyden, author and Giller Prize award winner. The event kicks off Friday night with a drum and dance social, and continues Saturday with interactive exhibits, story-telling and the performance by A Tribe Called Red.

Campeau, who grew up in Ottawa and calls the Nipissing First Nations Reserve near North Bay his home reserve, said his crew has been extremely busy performing during the last year. They recently returned from five days in Vancouver, and have played shows in Indiana, Philadelphia, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Toronto.

His group kind of stumbled on mixing pow-wow music with dub step several years ago when they started experimenting with it.

“It sounded great and that was that,” he said.

They unveiled their sound in 2008 at a club in Ottawa. It was an instant success and became a regular gig, now known as the Electric Pow-Wow. He said they don’t limit themselves to aboriginal mixes and the audience is usually an even split of first peoples and non-aboriginals.

This weekend’s event is open to everyone and Nahdee is encouraging both aboriginals and non-aboriginals to attend and get to know one another. For more information, contact the Turtle Island Centre at 519-253-3000 ext. 3481.

Watch a video about A Tribe Called Red.