British Columbia

Vancouver hip hop artist and high school choir make sweet music together

A Vancouver hip-hop artist recently joined forces with a local high school choir. The result is a culturally diverse music video about self empowerment.

'It was just meant to be. It was magical.'

Hip-hop artist Keliya, front, with the students of the Burnaby Mountain Secondary School choir. (Burnaby Mountain Secondary School )

A Vancouver hip-hop artist recently joined forces with a local high school choir. The result is a culturally diverse music video about self empowerment.

Hip-hop performer Keliya's new music video for her song, Take Us, features young students of Burnaby Mountain Secondary School singing alongside the rapper.​​​​​​

The collaboration was a special experience for all, say Keliya and the school's choir teacher, Deanna Gestrin. 

"We really felt like we could add more power to the chorus of this song and really take home the message by having a lot of young voices come together to represent that [message]," Keliya told Jason D'Souza, guest host of CBC's On the Coast

'It was written in the stars'

Keliya has been involved with activism for years, particularly on Indigenous issues in Canada. 

"I really wanted to highlight those things in my music and be a voice, not only for myself, but for all marginalized people," Keliya said. 

Soon after meeting to discuss the collaboration between the rapper and the choir, Gestrin and Keliya discovered something about themselves. 

"It was just meant to be. It was magical. We set up a lunch and realized that we knew each other through our parents. Our parents have worked together for many, many years ... That's when I knew it was the right fit," said Keliya. 

Gestrin says this little detail definitely fed her passion for the project. 

"It felt really intentional. The whole process seemed to make sense. Of course we found each other and of course we're doing this project together because, you know, it was written in the stars," said Gestrin. 

Deanna Gestrin, left, and Keliya, right, only recently met for their Take Us music video collaboration. Then they found out their parents had known each other a long time. Teaming up was meant to be, they say. (Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC)

A multicultural message

The students in the video are dressed in outfits that represent their true selves, say Keliya and Gestrin, which was important for the message of "Take Us."

"We really felt that the best way for them to represent themselves would be to take a piece of who they are culturally, whether that be from a Chinese or an Indian background, or Metis or First Nations or LGBTQ. Whatever it was that they identified with most," said Keliya. 

Gestrin says the choir was nervous and giggly when they first watched themselves in the music video.

"I think they're proud, excited, understated and giddy," said Gestrin. 

Keliya, centre, speaking with the high school choir on the day of the music video shoot for her song, Take Us. (Burnaby Mountain Secondary School )

Being an Indigenous mentor

Keliya says that when she was young, she never had an Indigenous mentor, hip-hop artist or singer to look up to. 

"Nobody on TV or mainstream media looked like me ... With these young people, I really felt like they got that opportunity to not only be in touch with somebody that they could relate to, but also be involved firsthand. That was so, so important to me," she said. 

Gestrin believes the choir's experience with Keliya will influence them going forward. 

Listen to the full interview here:

With files by On the Coast

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