Drum at the Olympics!
Friday, August 6, 2010

Natives will be bigger part of DRUM!

Chronicle Herald – Sat. Jul 17 – 4:54 AM

The ongoing odyssey of the Halifax-based stage production DRUM! takes another step forward, thanks to a new partnership with Canada’s Assembly of First Nations.

Brookes Diamond Productions signed a memorandum of understanding with the assembly following a meeting of its national executives during June’s Grand Chief Membertou 400 celebration in Nova Scotia.

Diamond says plans are underway to expand the scope of the concept of the multicultural concert presentation to include the entire country, with First Nations performers at the centre of the show as its storytellers.

The memorandum states the assembly will work with DRUM! to encourage the federal government and their sponsors to support the project. This year the travelling production enjoyed considerable success with engagements at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park in Tennessee, as well as a command performance for the Queen and Prince Philip during the recent royal visit to Nova Scotia.

While in Halifax, Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief to the Assembly of First Nations, watched a performance of DRUM!, which combines Mi’kmaq, Acadian, Celtic and African-Canadian traditions. He said he saw the show as an example of the power of art to facilitate a greater understanding between cultures and communities and an opportunity to preserve a living culture that was nearly extinguished in the past.

“(DRUM!’s) recognition that First Nations are part of the fabric of Canada is so strong, where it just isn’t in the rest of our legal and political context,” says Atleo.

“Much of this is about pinning our hopes on people’s hearts being opened up and young people becoming inspired to carry on this work through artistic expression.”

Atleo feels a national version of DRUM! will provide an opportunity for the burgeoning talent of First Nations communities across Canada, giving young performers an important creative outlet and helping to heal rifts within native communities.

“The lyrics and the message and the presence that these artists bring moves you and touches you in your soul, in your spirit and in your heart,” he says. “I believe it harkens the era of reconciliation that has been initiated with the first major truth and reconciliation event that happened in Winnipeg recently and the apology by the prime minister in the House of Commons two years ago.”