In celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day, the JUNOS are revisiting DJ Shub (winner, 2022 Contemporary Indigenous Album of the Year Presented by ITAC) and Snotty Nose Res Kids’ collaborative performance of “War Club,” “Uncle Rico,” and “Rebirth” at The 2022 JUNO Awards.
Introducing the artists was Roseanne Archibald who spoke to the power of music in defense of Indigenous culture. “Tonight, I lift up survivors and intergenerational trauma survivors who have channeled our collective pain and suffering through the medium of music. They put the ‘truth’ into truth and reconciliation using sacred symbols like the war club to share our stories and heal our nations,” she said.
“Traditionally, the war club was a tool of defense, a weapon used in war to defend your people, your land, your rights. Today, the modern war club is the mic, the pen, the message,” she continued. “These next two artists use their music like a weapon, yielding their instruments and their voices to strike back against injustice. To bring their people’s stories to the forefront and to stake their claim in the Canadian music industry. War club is a battle cry for social and political change.”
The politicized medley featured a beautiful blend of traditional and contemporary elements. The artists were joined on stage by dancers dressed in traditional regalia while various cultural symbols and images flashed brightly behind them. The striking visuals complemented the artists’ fusion of powwow, electronic, and hip hop sounds and lyrics referencing resilience, protest, community, and the residential school experience.
“New beginnings I’m writing my genesis / Old spirits returned, this the Revenant / When the drummers are knocking, we let em in,” the artists rapped. “Don’t let em get back in they element / I’m out of my head again, only get better when / My pen and pad is my medicine / I’m a Savage boy, I ain’t no gentleman / God damnit I’m proud of my melanin.”
While the performance was a message to audiences of the historical and systemic abuse of Indigenous people in Canada it was also reminder of the power of music as vehicle for social change. From folk songs to protest anthems, for many years music has been used as a tool for Indigenous people to share their experiences, culture, and history with each other and the world.
Leading up to the performance, JUNO nominees Snotty Nose Res Kids shared with ET Canada the importance of Indigenous representation in music and on stage. “There’s not a lot of people that look like us that are doing what we’re doing so we are giving representation back to our communities,” The duo said. “We paint the picture with our own brush and through our own eyes. We show the world who we really are.”
“Tonight, I lift up survivors and intergenerational trauma survivors who have channeled our collective pain and suffering through the medium of music.”
– Roseanne Archibald
DJ Shub also shared this sentiment when discussing the title of his JUNO-winning album War Club and the symbolism behind it. “It goes back to music always being there, and me using it as a tool. It has gotten me out of situations, and helped me get frustrations out,” he told Complex Canada. “Back in the day, a war club was a traditional weapon that my Mohawk tribe used to right wrongs. So for me now, I use music to right my wrongs and get through hard times.”
This year, for the first time in JUNOS history, the Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year category was broken into two separate categories – contemporary and traditional. This decision was made in an effort to celebrate and showcase more Indigenous artists and broaden the reach and understanding of Indigenous music and culture.
“I think it’s amazing,” said the inaugural Contemporary Indigenous Album of the Year Presented by ITAC Award Winner DJ Shub. “I think that breaking it up like this really helps individual artists who are mixing that contemporary with the traditional. I think this category is just going to open up a flood gate of all the amazing artists who are out there.”
For National Indigenous Peoples Day and throughout the month of June, Canadians are asked to take time to appreciate and acknowledge the history, heritage, resilience, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. With art and music being tied closely to culture and storytelling, we encourage people to listen to and explore Canada’s incredible Indigenous artists and their music.
For more information on National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day visit CBC’s guide on activities, resources, and events.
Featured photo: DJ Shub & Snotty Nose Rez Kids photographed at Matt Barnes Photo Studio. The 2022 JUNO Awards. Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON. May 15, 2022. Photo by: Matt Barnes