It would be easy to categorize Hip Hop Unlimited as just another arts-based event in a city that has been home to countless such offerings and still is.
After all, the all-ages event — beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 25th at The Venue (286 George St. N., 705-876-0008) — features all the required elements: dance and music, and the boundless creativity and enthusiasm that fuel the engines of both disciplines. Still, there is something else at play here; something bigger that sets it apart.
“I know how important it is for children to have opportunities to be actively involved in creating, composing, and choreographing in an art form,” says Peterborough LIVE founder Wendy Fischer who, along with Lindsay rapper Billy Marks of Mercenaries, is co-presenting the hip hop and rap music and dance showcase.
“My passion lies in working with Peterborough LIVE to ensure that youth don’t lose those opportunities as they grow older when it’s more difficult to keep art in their lives,” explains Fischer, whose day job is as an elementary school teacher with Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.
“All day long I bring music, dance and drama to children aged five to 10. What happens when they’re older? Where are their opportunities to continue to follow their passion? We need to support youth to build community, and to support each other.”
Hip Hop Unlimited, as a live entertainment spectacle, will deliver on that goal in a very big way, bringing together a number of hip hop artists, dancers, and rappers. Among them is Bryden Gwiss Kiwenzie, a hip hop artist from northern Ontario whose debut album, Round Dance & Beats, was nominated for Indigenous Music Album of the Year at the 2017 Juno Awards.
VIDEO: “Let’s Hop To It” – Bryden Gwiss Kiwenzie
“At a young age, I was singing with a drum at powwows, so I got this idea to combine my hip hop beats with a regular traditional tempo,” says Kiwenzie, noting he mixed the album entirely on his iPhone.
“Every time I do a show, I expand on what our (Indigenous) songs are. It’s all melodies and sounds. It’s expression without words. Our singing is about feeling and being positive; it’s like a form of prayer in a way. When you’re sitting at that drum singing, you’re in a good place, a very positive place, and you think about people who need extra prayers.
“I always wanted to get into the (music) business but it’s surreal that I’m living off what I love to do: singing, teaching, and working with youth. It’s a blessing … pretty awesome. I’ve been at it a long time so I know a lot of the teachings. I can’t read music, but I can create it.”
Kiwenzie’s making the long trip from his Sudbury home to Peterborough / Nogojiwanong is a testament to the persuasive powers of both Fischer and Marks, the former explaining things got started via “a conversation about youth who are very engaged with hip hop music but rarely have an opportunity to experience a live hip hop show because they’re usually in venues where they’re not all-ages events.”
With the recent closure of The Spill in downtown Peterborough, which provided a safe and welcoming environment for young performers and their fans, Fischer notes a show like this is even more vital.
Sponsored by the Peterborough DBIA, The Venue, kawarthaNOW.com, Public Energy, Peterborough Inn and Suites, and The Wire, Hip Hop Unlimited begins at 5 p.m. when Kiwenzie with DJ Hendy will host an all-ages Indigenous hip hop and dance event.
VIDEO: Borealis Soul
This will be followed at 7 p.m. by a dance battle event hosted by Borealis Soul, a Whitehorse-based dance company, and will feature dancers from the Trent African Caribbean Student Union, Peterborough Performing Arts Centre, the Thomas A. Stewart dance program, and the St. Peter’s Saints Dance Team.
Fischer notes there is plenty of room for independent dancers who are welcome to register starting at 6 p.m.
Then, at 9 p.m., Billy Marks and Eyeda Sophia will host a hip hop musical extravaganza featuring live performances by Kiwenzie, S-Ka-Paid, Maceo Moreno, Kachinga, Offficial,Notus (Chris Thomas, Rekless, and Double E), Jurazzic Darren, Danny Heights, Coco Leah, and Mr. Face, along with DJ Taktikill, Paradigm Shift, and DJ Hendy.
The event is licensed after 8 p.m., with a parental advisory that some of the music after 9 p.m. will feature explicit lyrics.
VIDEO: “To The Wall” – Billy Marks (warning: explicit lyrics)
Proceeds from the event will benefit two organizations: Youth Unlimited, a registered non-profit organization that runs a variety of programs and activities for youth in Peterborough and across the Kawarthas, and a local cultural revitalization project sponsored by Bedford House, which is dedicated to dialogue and social action involving people of all religious traditions.
Charlene Green is involved with the latter project, which takes the form of a monthly Sacred Fire held in the city.
“It’s to share food, have the fire lit and have a sacred, spiritual place for Indigenous people living in the city,” explains Green. “We start with the Sunrise Ceremony and we let the Sacred Fire burn all day long. People come and they offer tobacco and we share songs and stories.
VIDEO: “BANGARANG” – Koty Kolter x S-KA-PAID (warning: explicit lyrics)
“It has become such a beautiful place. If this can continue, it will impact the next generation. I don’t have the words to describe how beautiful it is. It’s very interactive; you’re part of a community.”
Admission to Hip Hop Unlimited is $10 for the family-friendly dance event only (from 5 to 7 p.m.), or $20 for the entire show, with reserved table seating for $25.
Tickets can be purchased at ticketscene.ca and at the door (not reserved seating is only available online).