THE Godfather of PowWowStep is a powerful and prideful title, but DJ Shub a.k.a. Dan General has been living up to the expectation just fine.
The DJ/producer is an artist who proudly and carefully merges heritage with craft, pioneering a growing genre of electronic music.
“Watching the next wave and generation of steppers coming through, who have been inspired by this music and listening to what they’re coming up with, that gives me chills,” said Shub.
“As an artist you want to inspire people, and you especially want to inspire your own people. Hopefully a producer in a rural reserve hears that music and is inspired. That’s my mission in my music.”
Formerly of A Tribe Called Red, Shub will bring his lively beats and rhythms of triumph live to the marina waterfront as part of the Wake the Giant Festival on Saturday.
At home and taking a break from working on music to chat, Shub’s friendly voice echoes over the phone, as he calls the festival lineup of artists, “eclectic” and something he was pleasantly surprised to see. Indeed, there’s something for everyone at WTG.
Originating in 2019, Wake the Giant is a cultural awareness project aimed at creating a more welcoming and inclusive city for Indigenous people, youth and their communities. It is a celebration of all cultures with a focus on Indigenous artists and musicians.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to help indigenize spaces. Bringing in dancers and having indigenous artists performing is a big step forward in ensuring our voices are heard,” said Shub, who is a Mohawk, turtle clan of the Six Nations of the Grand River located in southern Ontario.
Shub will perform for the first time in four years with Alberta PowWow and Round Dance drum and singing group Northern Cree. Formed in 1980, they’re a Grammy-nominated group.
Shub’s respect for his friends is obvious.
“When it comes to Indigenous traditional drumming groups, they’re legendary,” said Shub. “Our last show was magical, we just clicked. It’s an honour to collaborate.”
Shub’s globally successful single Indomitable will be a festival highlight and features Northern Cree. What better place to make sonic and cultural history than in Thunder Bay.
With over 3.6 million YouTube views and counting, the intense and infectious video features Thunder Bay DJ/producer Joshua DePerry a.k.a. Classic Roots performing the indigenous dance Men’s Fancy Feather.
The admiration is clear, Shub says that Classic Roots, “keeps me on my toes. He’s phenomenal.”
In 2017 it won the Much Music Video Award for Best EDM/Dance video and has garnered many other accolades.
DJ Shub will also be joined by Jingle Dress Dancers that are Dennis Franklin Cromarty (DFC) high school students.
A rule of thumb remains when playing shows. Shub searches out local dancers to showcase their talent.
“I let them do what they do,” he explained. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. I love the fact that I’ll be a part of their memories. CBC is going to be there shooting a documentary, so there will be lots of footage. These are historical events. I’m making sure it goes down in history.”
Dj Shub could very well be called a role model. He often fields personal questions from teens inquiring about the music industry and enjoys giving back.
“I tell the youth, get yourself out there. Get heard. Practice your craft. Dedicate time to it,” he said. “I’ve sacrificed many years to get to where I am. Stick with it. Believe in yourself. It works.”
Growing up in small town Fort Erie, Ont., it was Shub’s older brother who bought him his first DJ setup at the age of 16, fuelling the fire for countless future DJ battle wins.
Though quite independent on his musical journey, he wouldn’t change it and has experienced some full circle moments.
“It was tough coming from a small city,” said Shub. “You have to search for your inspiration, you have to dig for it. That keeps you more humble. I’m glad I’m from a small town. You find support easily.”
Was Shub ever self-conscious about sampling traditional heritage and culture and combining it with contemporary, electronic music? Of course. But it has been done before in different genres. Take Redbone from the 1970s for example.
Shub has the blessings of his elders.
“They said keep doing what you’re doing, you’re inspiring the youth and continuing the culture,” said Shub. “It’s also creating a non-confrontational, comfortable space where questions can be asked, Indigenous or not. It’s an important conversation that needs to happen.”
Wake the Giant also features local folk and roots singer-songwriter-guitarist Nick Sherman, the voice from the wilderness.
Sherman’s music has taken him across the country at multiple events and festivals, and to remote communities bringing music programming into schools, helping Indigenous youth express themselves. He’s pleased to take part in this local festival.
“It’s a huge honour getting to share the stage with such great performers,” said Sherman.
“For me it means having an opportunity to share my songs to our diverse community here in Thunder Bay. And finally having an opportunity to come together in a safe way after a really challenging year.
“The festival also strives to be inclusive which is think is the most important, especially with so many new students coming from northern communities.”
Sherman’s new single Winterdark is not to be missed, addressing a difficult topic around education and students from the north.
“My main message is that we need to support these students and understand their challenges,” said Sherman.
“There’s no quick fix to changing institutions but why can’t we counter negative experiences with positive ones? Wake the Giant is a step in that direction I believe.”
Singer, songwriter and activist iskw? will be joined by musician, artist and author Tom Wilson for her performance.
During a time when artists were finding themselves isolated, these artists came together to create. Painting as Ceremony will take place during the iskw? performance. It’s a powerful community building activity, experienced through the co-creation of a collective artistic piece.
The Wake the Giant Festival takes place in Thunder Bay at the Thunder Bay Marina waterfront on Saturday and will be hosted by Anishinaabe journalist, author and speaker Tanya Talaga.
Talaga’s mother’s family is from Fort William First Nation and her father was Polish-Canadian. Her first book — Seven Fallen Feathers — is a national bestseller and has received several awards.
(Angie Valente is a freelance journalist based in Thunder Bay.)
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