New music and literary tour to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists

The New Constellations tour, about to hit 13 cities and First Nations communities, will include six arts workshops for Indigenous youth.

New Constellations tour to include arts workshops for Indigenous youth

Hip-hop duo Mob Bounce are among the artists that are part of the New Constellations tour that kicks off Nov. 23 in Saskatoon. (submitted by New Constellations)

A tour described as a "half-music, half-literary" event is about to hit 13 cities and First Nations communities.

The New Constellations tour will feature music acts, spoken word, as well as mentorship workshops geared toward Indigenous youth. The tour is bringing together both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and organizers say audiences should expect an experience they haven't seen before.

"Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists rarely perform or create together, so this is an amazing opportunity to see what happens when they do," said Jarrett Martineau.

"With where we are in this country's history, that collaboration is more important than ever," he said.

Jarrett Martineau is the co-founder of the record label RPM, which is co-organizing the tour. (Melody Lau/CBC)

Martineau, who is Cree/Dene, is the co-founder of contemporary Indigenous record label RPM Records. RPM Records has joined forces with The Basement Revue, a live event series that combined artists from different disciplines, to put together the tour.

The tour will feature music by artists like A Tribe Called Red, Feist, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and rocker Sam Roberts, and non-musical sets by writers like Billy-Ray Belcourt and Naomi Klein.

It will also feature a mentorship program which will connect Indigenous people from all ages with some of the acts. Online, they can submit music and be mentored by established artists in the music industry. The tour also plans to host workshops in six communities where Indigenous youth will have the opportunity to learn about things like songwriting and music production.

Applications for the mentorship program close Nov. 13.

Writer and musician Leanne Betasamosake Simpson hopes to help Indigenous youth work on their writing skills at workshops along the tour path. (Red Works Photography)


One of the core artists on the tour will be Simpson, a Michi Saagigig Nishnaabeg musician and writer. With her band, she will be performing her first album f(l)ight, which was released last year through RPM Records.

Simpson said she is grateful to have had Indigenous artists mentor her throughout her career.

"I wouldn't be here if people hadn't done that for me," she said. "I think that's a really beautiful part of our community and I'm really honoured to be a part of that."

The gift of reciprocity is something that she plans on sharing with Indigenous youth while on tour. During the workshops, she will be helping to develop their writing skills — including poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

"We have a responsibility to hold up those emerging writers, to make sure that we are out in the community sharing our skills and nurturing that next generation," said Simpson.

Teaching the next generation

Craig Edes and Travis Hebert are the hip-hop duo known as Mob Bounce. The duo has been rapping together since 2010 and is also signed to RPM Records.

Mob Bounce will be performing on the tour and mentoring Indigenous youth who are interested in learning how to make music. Over the last couple of years, Hebert and Edes have been travelling to First Nations to offer similar mentorship programs.

Hebert, who is Cree-Métis, said the group holds workshops to help Indigenous youth "realize their power and potential, through words alone."

"We had a few mentors throughout our lives, but to have specific mentors around music, Indigeneity, culture, that was kind of absent," said Hebert.

"So we're really trying to be available to the next generation. I believe it all starts from connecting with the young people and being there for them when those things are missing."

Mob Bounce's first LP will be available in 2018.

The New Constellations tour kicks off Nov. 23 in Saskatoon.