Cris Derksen.

Cris Derksen.

By Kelly Anne Smith with Caroline Parnell

NORTH BAY — The Red Ride Tour 2015 was billed as an “annual showcase of musically diverse indigenous artists touring North America”. It was part of the 2015 Dream Big Conference for the Arts which took place in North Bay from May 27th to 30th. This year’s Red Ride Tour rode into town and rocked the Capitol Centre with inspired music from a storytelling cellist, a classical grunge musician, a jazzy/alternative/folk songstress, and a double Juno award winning guitarist!

“Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams.” says Kristi Lane Sinclair, a classical grunge musician who co-founded the Red Ride Tour five years ago. She is now organizing her fifth tour, while finishing her new album and filming a six-part TV series about her musical journey for APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network). “I never thought any of this would happen but as soon as you start opening doors, more doors open.” She recalls being painfully shy as a child with a passion for playing guitar. She forced herself to get up on stage and kept doing it, noting that “it was actually pretty painful for a little while”.  Kristi is in a happy place when she is organizing the Red Ride Tour and playing every date. “It’s more fun now.”

Co-founder of the Red Ride Tour, Cris Derksen, is an accomplished musician who plays techno infused cello.  Her musical style is a melding of traditional and new-age. Derksen says she calls on her ancestors to help tell stories through her music. The last song in her set soared with high energy rifts melding with classical soulful cello, which Derksen referred to as “being of a future prophecy”. She advises today’s youth to “do something that you love, and don’t quit. If you keep on your own path, you will eventually get there.”

When it comes to following a path, Binaeshee Quae Couchie-Nabigon, a singer songwriter from Pic River First Nation, has been singing since childhood. She has performed at many music festivals across Ontario and regularly participates in community arts as a volunteer, presenter, artist and workshop facilitator.  Two years ago she released her first full length album “Ooof” a Jazzy-Alterna-Folk mix. “Singing is one of the most important, honest, healing things I can do for myself” she says, adding “It sounds super cheesy but I think what you do for yourself you’re also doing for others. I try to do things, say things and sing things that make me happy, people notice. Happy feeds more happy. #sappy”.  Binaeshee feels lucky to have been born into an artful family where she says she has always felt free to dream big. She acknowledges that her mother and grandfather inspire and support her and that “music has just always been the obvious choice for me”.

A multi-award winner was also on board the 2015 Red Ride Tour!, Mohawk Blues guitarist Derek Miller plays in Kristi’s band and headlines his own act. Miller acknowledges that he “has a blast” collaborating with Kristi.

He began his career playing in Buffy Sainte-Marie’s band and has since gone on to win two Juno awards and 4 Aboriginal Music Awards!  In 2011 a documentary file about his life on the road, Music is the Medicine, was premiered at the Imagine NATIVE festival in Toronto. Then in 2014 Miller created a compilation of classic hits by American Indian musicians with the album release Rumble: A Tribute to Native Music Icons. “This tribute album is a blueprint of the origins of American rock and roll,” says Miller, adding “American Indian musicians, as well as musicians inspired by Native history and culture, have been active in contemporary popular music for nearly a century. Their stories are not just one-hit wonders in Native history, but a backstage pass to music history.”

Asked for sage advice for upcoming artists, Miller says, “It’s important to have faith and have fun when pursuing one’s dreams.