This First Nations DJ Brings Powwow Step to the Dance Floor
DJ Shub is a Mohawk DJ and award-winning music producer from Six Nations of the Grand River. He is a major voice in Canada’s Indigenous electronic music community and considered the godfather of powwow step.
A life-long fan of hip hop, Shub has been a DJ for 15 years. “I grew up on hip hop. It’s in my blood. And one of the elements of hip hop is DJ’ing.” His older brother actually bought Shub his first turntable set-up. “I wasn’t good at all. It just took many, many nights of staying home and just practicing and practicing … I had to buy VHS tapes of DJs doing battles and that’s how I just learned, I just taught myself. It’s like any kind of musical instrument. You’re not going to be good when you pick it up. But you keep at it and practice and eventually you’ll be good. Sacrifice, too. You’ve got to sacrifice a lot to be who you want to be and become who you want to become.” All that practice and sacrifice paid off. In 2007 and 2008, he won Canadian National DJ Championship titles.
DJ’ing was always his passion, but not his career. “I had a stable, full-time job and DJ’ing was the side thing. I never thought I could make a career out of it.” In 2012, Shub stepped away from a stable job and began his career with nationally-acclaimed electronic music trio A Tribe Called Red. “It was a scary leap of faith. But I had people who believed in me and they were like, ‘Do it. Do it. You’re meant to do this and if you don’t do it, you’re going to kick yourself in the ass.’” His work with A Tribe Called Red saw Shub performing across North American stages with some of the biggest recording artists in today’s industry and winning a Juno Award in 2014 with a sound they dubbed powwow step; combining hip hop, reggae, and dub-step with elements of First Nations Music.
DJ Shub left the group in 2014 and in 2016 he released a solo EP entitled PowWowStep where he continues to celebrate Indigenous culture and music. It includes six songs featuring the Northern Cree Singers, smoke dance singer Frazer Sundown, and a northern drum group from Blackfoot territory called Black Lodge Singers.
Shub continues to work on new music while making it a priority to support and shine a spotlight on other up-and-coming Indigenous artists. “Powwow step is still young. And it’s got so much room to grow, so I’m excited to see where it’s gonna go.”
“It feels like this is music I was supposed to make my whole life. Just being able to watch the crowds, loving the music, loving the culture … it’s a great feeling. This is my true calling, this is what I’m supposed to do.”
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