Emotionz lead youth through interactive songwriting workshops
Nelson, left, aka Emotionz and Brad Bellegarde aka InfoRed
are in Saskatoon to teach young people about connections between
urban Indigenous culture and hip hop. (CBC)
There is a lot to unpack when you open a conversation about
the larger meaning of hip-hop culture with Brad Bellegarde and Dave
Nelson, better known as InfoRed and Emotionz.
kids jump up and start dancing.'
- Brad Bellegarde
"I think that hip hop is a really unique
way of connecting students to Indigenous culture," said Bellegarde
in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.
2 worlds collide
Bellegarde and Nelson were in Saskatoon Wednesday at Caswell
Hill School, offering workshops for students in grades 7 and 8 on
hip hop and the way it intermingles with and represents Indigenous
culture in a modern, urban context.
"We are going to be doing some songwriting, beat boxing,
kind of talking about the correlation of First Nations culture and
hip hop, everything from the circle and the turntable to how graffiti
and totem poles have similarities
. Powwow to breakdancing,"
"I like to start with having a rap," said Bellegarde.
"You see their eyes open up they are really in tune."
The workshops are interactive, urging students to try out word
association with the goal of composing a hip-hop song, one that
can be performed by the kids themselves.
"Some kids jump up and start dancing; it's a really cool
thing to see," said Bellegarde.
This effort is part of the Canada 150 celebrations and so the
lessons passed along in Saskatoon will also be broadcast out to
other school across the country.
and Bellegarde suggest that graffiti, in a modern context,
has similarities to totem poles. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)
Hip hop as agent of reconciliation
As ambitious as this all seems the two artists have even loftier
goals, as they attempt to teach the teachers that hip-hop culture
is not the stereotype they may see in popular culture. Bellegarde
said it is not about cash, gangs and violence.
"Hip hop was formed on the basis of creating a voice and
an opportunity to speak about social issues that are happening in
the community," he said.
They said their lesson is also about reconciliation between
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. There is equity in hip
hop, they said, and the music crosses all ethnic boundaries.