Ian Campeau will never forget the first Electric Pow Wow night. It was 2008 and he and fellow Aboriginal DJ Bear Witness had the idea to host a club event in Ottawa similar to ones held for the Korean and East Indian communities.

“We wanted to throw a party that was culturally specific to the First Nations people,” recalls

“We started adding pow wow vocal and drumming samples to electronic dance music and people went crazy.” – Ian Caopeau of A Tribe Called Red

Campeau, a.k.a. DJ NDN. “We started adding pow wow vocal and drumming samples to electronic dance music and people went crazy. It was obvious this was a big thing that was missing in the community.”

Campeau and Bear Witness then teamed up with Dan General, a.k.a. DJ Shub, to form A Tribe Called Red, and their Electric Pow Wow nights became even bigger events. Initially, their music was all mash-ups, mixes of styles ranging from hip-hop and house to dancehall and dubstep. But with the song “Electric Pow Wow Drum,” the trio created an original anthem.

“Right off the bat, it seemed like we’d hit a pretty big home run,” recalls Campeau. “ [U.S. DJ and tastemaker] Diplo heard the track, loved it and started blogging about it on his Mad Decent blog. Within days of that, we were getting tweets from MTV.”

The momentum kept building. A Tribe Called Red’s self-titled debut album became a candidate for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize and was included in The Washington Post’s Top 10 albums of the year. The trio toured across North America and Europe, thrilling audiences in Edinburgh and at the World Music Expo in Greece.

With its 2013 Polaris Prize shortlisted follow-up album, Nation II Nation, A Tribe Called Red has only

“With ‘Electric Pow Wow Drum,’ right off the bat, it seemed like we’d hit a pretty big home run.” – Ian Caopeau of A Tribe Called Red

seen its popularity grow, and they’ve performed at major events like Detroit’s electronic music festival and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Next up, the group is making an album for Pirates Blend, the label owned by Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski, Eon Sinclair, Sekou Lumumba and their manager Dave Guenette.

Campeau says he and his bandmates are happy to be the face of the Aboriginal urban youth experience. “As First Nations people, we’ve always been seen as something from the past,” he says. “With this modern twist, it’s showing that we’re still here. That’s the message of our music.” – NICHOLAS JENNINGS

Track Record
• Campeau joined a First Nations drum group at the age of 10, and was the drummer of Montreal punk band The Ripchordz in his 20s.
• General is a two-time Canadian winner of the DMC Championship, the annual DJ competition hosted by Disco Mix Club.
• Bear Witness doubles as the crew’s visual artist, and creates videos that take racist portrayals of indigenous North Americans and re-work them into social commentary.

Publisher: A Tribe Called Red
Discography: A Tribe Called Red (2012), Nation II Nation (2013)
Visit http://atribecalledred.com
SOCAN members since 2013

PHOTO CREDIT: Pat Bolduc (colour photo)
Sébastien Roy (B&W photo)

Founded in 2005, the Canadian New Music Network (CNMN) is all about being inclusive and accessible. Chamber music, improvisation, electro-acoustics, new opera, orchestral music, sound art, whatever – these are all just different paths to the same goal. We need to work together.

The basic premise of CNMN is simple: creating new music as a form of personal expression is an important part of the larger musical ecosystem in Canada. We felt that the larger “new music” community did not have a single, strong, unified voice that could articulate the larger artistic and social values that this music brings to the Canadian cultural matrix.

CNMN has two primary goals:
1) Networking – creating a cultural space and specific events that bring the entire new music community together, to work on common problems and find solutions.
2) Representation – to work with arts councils, government agencies, educators, the media and the public to promote the value of creative art music, both as an art form and as a social value in Canada.

We are a professional association in that we represent a specific professional community – the new music world (“contemporary classical” would be another term, but that felt far too narrow for our inclusive vision). However, membership is based solely on a simple philosophical belief – if you believe that supporting “new music” as a cultural value in Canada is important, you should join.

Our members include other arts organizations, new music ensembles, festivals, orchestras, composers, performers, improvisers, jazz musicians, experimental noise artists, visual artists, music educators, student composers and performers, musicians in other fields, curious listeners, avid fans…you get the idea. We currently have more than 500 members.

Our single most important activity is the networking conference entitled FORUM. These two-day conferences are exciting events where new music artists from across Canada and from the international community meet in order to both discuss important issues for the community, and to talk about new artistic projects. Half commercial arts market, half academic conference, it’s a great place to meet new people, talk about new ideas and projects, and find new partners from across Canada and on the international scene.

Previous FORUMS were held in Winnipeg (2007), Toronto (2008), Montreal (2009), Halifax (2010) and Vancouver (2012). Our Vancouver event was our most successful to date, with 112 participants.

The next FORUM will be held in Calgary from Jan. 24-26, 2014. We’re planning on expanding our international partnerships for this FORUM, and bringing in a wide range of international guests from the U.S. and Europe. If you want to expand your network of contacts and get new ideas off the ground, this is the place to do it.

CNMN maintains a very comprehensive website (visit newwmusicnetwork.ca for more info), a thrice-yearly e-Bulletin to members on activities and projects, and is constantly involved in representation within our sector, working with partners such as the Canadian Arts Coalition and the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, in order to help bring new music to as many Canadian listeners as possible.


Made up of an assortment of non-conformist, rebellious creators from the Montreal and Quebec City music scenes, Alaclair Ensemble took shape in 2008 when Mash (Les 2 Toms), KenLo (Movèzerbe) and Maybe Watson (K6A) got together for an informal music project. As the collective’s youngest member, Ogden Ridjanovic (a.k.a. Robert Nelson, the band’s manager), explains, “In the beginning, there were no plans to start a group, or any other project for that matter. Guys would just wander into the studio from time to time and start writing songs for others to complete. Then, in the spring of 2010, we realized we had some 15 pieces ready to go and that, looking back, they were all pieces the same guys had been working on. Seeing as it was our casual working method that had allowed us to introduce a festive and comical element to our tunes, we decided to share the results with our audience with the same kind of informality.”

After selling 500 copies of the digital album 4,99 (at $4.99 apiece), the group decided to have 500

Many people see us as the “gentler” side of Quebec rap music

more copies printed and, once this batch was sold out, and the band had been joined by Claude Bégin, Eman and Vlooper, the album was turned into a free download on Bandcamp. The result was instant success.

“This is when we started seeing that there was definitely an interest for our band,” Ridjanovic says. “Basically, it was a playful project, nothing really serious. In the early days, the fact that people actually were listening to our music was enough compensation for us. Having realized the fantastic buzz that can be created by making your music available online for free, we could not turn back. We also knew that this was making it easier for music journalists. It gave them something newsworthy to write about us. I have a feeling that some of them were relieved once they realized that there was no big machine behind our band. The word got out, but we also got a lucky break as a number physical copies had ended up in the right hands.”

Emboldened by this positive public and critical response, the group embarked in 2011 on an ambitious and eclectic three-album project titled Musique bas-canadienne d’aujourd’hui (Lower Canadian Music of Today). The first section of that upcoming trilogy, the fun-packed Les maigres blancs d’Amérique du noir (a zany reference to the iconic Quebec novel White Niggers of America), ended up being the group’s actual second album “simply because we were all together again, which we were not for Musique bas-canadienne d’aujourd’hui,” Ridjanovic explains.

“We were hoping to recapture the devil-may-care, fun-and-games attitude of our first album, but we also wanted to do this over a creative period of a few months instead of two and a half years. What this ambitious project meant to us above everything else was a lot of enjoyment, period. We viewed this as a fun trip from the word go. We retired into a cottage in Coaticook to create the outline of several pieces, and this is definitely the album where the band’s trademark ‘old buddies’ dimension really shines through. You can hear it. The album is a perfect reflection of our mood in that cottage during the album’s creation period.”

Ranging in age from 25 to 31, the six Alaclair Ensemble members are a close-knit bunch in spite of their various backgrounds. This is reflected in their compositional approach, which is meant to be both collective and personal. “We will often get going from a beat contributed by a member of the group, and then someone comes up with a key word that sort of becomes the glue that keeps the song together as we move along.” Says Ridjanovic. “A case in point was “Mammifère” (“Mammal”), a theme on which all musicians worked individually. We ended up with three entirely different approaches and performances. Many of our songs work that way. Generally, the band member doing the rap is performing his own writing.”

Alaclair Ensemble’s creative and unsettling rhythms, festive energy, scorching political comedy and madcap attitude has delighted countless Francophone hip-hop music lovers since the group’s creation, but not everyone is a dedicated fan. “We have disturbed a lot of people, and we ended up being rejected by the Quebec hip-hop community,” says Ridjanovic. “But we don’t mind. We embrace it. Many people see us as the ‘gentler’ side of Quebec rap music, but we laugh it off. We consciously decided to dissociate ourselves from that scene, and our audiences include a very limited number of hardcore rap music fans today.”

Besides preparing for a series of fall appearances, the band is looking forward to going into isolation once again, and coming out fairly soon with new material. Ridjanovic believes that the group’s future is really looking up.

“The reason we keep going is that we are optimistic about finding a way of making a living with our music eventually. We see ourselves as pioneers, and we would like to show that there is more than one way of doing things. For starters, we don’t believe that you have to get signed up by a company to make a living as a musician. The thing I like is that we own our projects. We are not going down the beaten path. My philosophy is to build things up brick by brick. No victory is too small. Alaclair Ensemble is the opposite of a one-hit wonder. A mixture of fun, spontaneous pleasure, and more focused collective creation remains our ultimate goal.”