By Meng Wei
In 2020, its Virtual Pow Wow Festival (VPWF) generated a wave of Indigenous and electronic music hype.
“It feels great. It feels good. It was something that I would never have thought to be able to do in such a short amount of time,” Richard says.
The VPWF was sponsored by the Online Programming Grant funded in partnership between Calgary Arts Development and the Rozsa Foundation. It took place on National Indigenous Peoples Day and put the spotlight on seven artists with Indigenous backgrounds to celebrate their originality and community.
“It was so important to have this, to continue to give voice and space for Indigenous artists and Indigenous music.”
Richard was once a one-man team coordinating DJs and producers from all over Canada to mix and mingle with local artists that eventually led to collaborations with groups like Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Cartel Madras.
Last March, he was about to have the first in Canada Indigenous Bass and Dubstep Night when the COVID-19 pandemic hit like an endless snowstorm in the middle of the summer that you can’t do anything about.
“It was a little bit disheartening to do all the work prior and have those events cancelled,” he says. “Everybody was quite supportive and everybody understood this is a weird time that we’re in a global pandemic.”
Then the circle of friends quickly got back on their feet, from knowing nothing about the online streaming platform Twitch to streaming with green-screens, gaining new perspectives on showmanship, and going live online.
“The quality of the stream just went from zero to 100 within like a month, and everybody grew honing in on their craft of streaming,” he says. “It’s definitely a powerful tool to be able to connect through music and to connect with one another virtually during this time.”
More artists came online and joined the show again from everywhere even though their only payments were by donation most of the time.
Drumbeat Entertainment’s channel is a community that brings people together from isolation, and it’s also a platform with opportunities that many Indigenous artists don’t usually have.
“A lot of the time, we’re just brushed under the rug. With this opportunity… we give them a chance on our channel to not only play their music but also get it heard by a wider audience.
“Calgary Arts Development helped us pay our artists, and also gave the business a fair honorarium for the work that we put in behind the scenes. That really helps us stay motivated and keep doing these events.”
With the power of the internet, Drumbeat Entertainment has grown with more reach and better capacities to connect the audience with different music and artists.
Richard is hopeful about the future. “It makes me optimistic for what’s to come, and it makes me excited for life after the pandemic to see where we can go, whenever that time comes, you know, we’re going to be ready for it.”