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DJ Shub | Image source: Ogichidaa

Mohawk musician DJ Shub, who left A Tribe Called Red in 2014, releases his debut album, “Powwow Step.”

It’s an unmistakable sound: big, booming powwow drums and singing mixed with house-style electric dance beats.

They call it powwow step. A head-bopping, dubstep-like rhythm that’s uniquely Indigenous—music made popular a few years ago by First Nations sensation A Tribe Called Red 

Now, Dan “DJ Shub” General (Mohawk), a former member of ATCR, will release his debut album, Powwow Step, in August. Still under production at press time, the album will come with at least 12 tracks, including expected club banger “Indomitable,” featuring Canadian powerhouse drum group Northern Cree.

DJ Shub’s single “Old School is for Lovers” grows the powwow step genre with a splash of something new. The song begins with a soft melody similar to instrumental music in motion pictures. Think John Williams or Hans Zimmer.

Listen and download DJ Shub’s “Old School is for Lovers” for free on Soundcloud.

“It’s a score for a movie that has powwow in it,” DJ Shub explains from his home in Ontario. “I wanted to try something new. It’s a leap of faith sort of thing, but I have no doubt it’s a good leap of faith. I wanted to extend my reach as far as music genres go.”

DJ Shub released the song in April as a free online download off his website, and it was featured in an episode of Vice’s Dead Set on Life. The second half of the track has DJ Shub’s familiar hard-hitting drum beat mixed with “Waabananang Ziibi,” a round dance powwow song by First Nations drum group Morningstar River. The Black Lodge Singers, a well-known powwow drum group from Washington state, are also featured on the new album.

As a member of ATCR, DJ Shub helped the group capture multiple awards, including a hard-won Juno Award in 2014 for Breakthrough Group of the Year. His time with ATCR took him across Canada, the United States and Europe to perform.

DJ Shub left the group after about three years for personal reasons and to be closer to his wife and two young children. “My family gives me the most inspiration,” says the 35-year-old. “If my kids aren’t dancing to my music, I know I’m not going in the right direction.”

The artist got the nickname “Shub” in high school after Jamaican artist Shabba Ranks, known for his 1992 hit “Mr. Loverman,” one of DJ Shub’s favorite songs growing up.

The nickname stuck, and he owned it by adding “DJ” as his music career started to take form in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

DJ Shub won the DMC Canada DJ Championship in 2007 and again in 2008, the same year he also took the DMC Canadian Battle for Supremacy title. Other DJ-related titles and accomplishments include Canada’s Red Bull Thre3Style title in 2012 and the King of the Dot Canada vs. USA battle win. This was around the time he joined ATCR and was introduced to what would be called powwow step.

“At the time, I was producing a lot of hip-hop stuff,” DJ Shub says. “It was the first time I heard mashups of powwow and dubstep, and the majority of the faces at the club were majority all Native people. It was a culture shock for me and it was something I hadn’t heard before.”

DJ Shub’s music caught the attention of up-and-coming Aboriginal artist and powwow-step producer Lesley Boulanger, a.k.a. Boogey The Beat, who calls “Old School is for Lovers” is an “incredible song.”

“His new track is out of this world, and I am looking forward to hearing the full project this summer,” says Boulanger (Berens River First Nation). “DJ Shub is always coming with fire. When I first heard his work with A Tribe Called Red, I was immediately inspired to create my own powwow-step rhythms.”

Boulanger, of Winnipeg, released his first powwow-step single, “HOKA,” in January.

“To me, powwow step means progression,” Boulanger says, “progression in music and in my own life. I started out as a hip-hop producer first. It wasn’t until I first heard A Tribe Called Red that I realized the two worlds of traditional Indigenous music and dubstep/trap beats could be blended in such a unique way. I grew up listening to my family singing traditional songs and taking me to ceremonies, so a lot of these songs and chants have been with me my whole life.”

Boulanger’s music is just one example of the evolving sounds of powwow step, DJ Shub says. He’s excited to see where the genre goes next.

“Powwow step basically scratched the surface with A Tribe Called Red,” he says. “The music possibilities are endless. One goal of mine is to watch this thing grow.”

This article was written by Dalton Walker (Red Lake Ojibwe) for Native Peoples Magazine and has been republished with permission.  

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MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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