A group of Mi’kmaq drummers and dancers wearing regalia form a circle in a Nova Scotia cornfield, perhaps not an expected setting for a rap video.
This weekend a film crew captured their performance and shot scenes around Truro, N.S., for Juno award-winning rapper Classified’s upcoming video for the song Powerless.
Directed by Grammy-nominated director Andy Hines, who is also from Nova Scotia, the video will highlight the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Cheyenne Isaac was one of a dozen extras from nearby First Nations.
“It really does hit home, because I am part of a statistic and so are the girls here,” said Isaac, who is originally from Listuguj, Que. and lives in Millbrook First Nation.
“Hopefully this touches some people who had no idea what this is about … It’s something that’s really hard for a lot of us so we hope [viewers] have some sympathy and compassion.”
For one scene, the dancers performed a jingle dance, meant for healing. Isaac hopes the video inspires people to learn more about the plight of missing and murdered women, but also about Indigenous culture.
“It’s really important that we have this opportunity to educate people and for people to start realizing that it’s much more than meets the eye … I’m really happy he’s able to bring that the country and the world,” she said.
“It’s going to be cool for people to see our culture, in a modern, we’re not all buckskin-wearing-what-you-see-in-the-movies. It’s all colourful, loud and beautiful,” said Jennifer Maloney of Sipekne’katik First Nation.
“Teaching people about our culture, I feel it’s like the first step to acceptance.”
Christopher Googoo, of Millbrook, brought his nine-year-old son Brady for the shoot. He said it is important for young people to learn about residential schools and the legacy of colonialism.
“This video is about reconciliation, I believe, and we’re very proud to be involved,” said Googoo.
“[Youth] are the future, they represent our hope and getting them involved in the discussion, even as participants in observing what’s going on is very important.”
Brady Googoo, who started dancing in pow wows when he was four years old, wasn’t drawn by Classified’s profile.
“I think he’s famous, I’m not really sure,” he said, lighting up when asked about being part of a drum circle.
“I love it. You get to express stuff. It’s just my regular thing to do.”
Powerless touches on dark themes — one verse relates to molestation, another to MMIWG.
Luke Boyd, known as Classified, calls the song the “most important” he’s written. It will be the Enfield, N.S. rapper’s first single in two years.
Boyd grew up alongside friends from Shubenacadie and Millbrook First Nations, but said it was only later that he learned more about the prevalence of violence against Indigenous people and specifically how often cases of missing and murdered women are overlooked and dismissed.
“So many things that blew my mind when I started reading about it, that I was like this is something I want to talk about,” he said.
“I’m here to say something. I still got fun records, I’ve still got things like that but at this age, and the reach we have, it’s cool to be able to do something that you feel like you might be able to make a difference,” he said.
Isaac said she is proud to be part of the project.
“I didn’t know Classified on that level. So it’s really cool to see him come out and just like touch base on his roots, and who he is and his platform to make a difference. I think that’s amazing,” she said.