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$100,500 North Shore native and hip-hop artist Kyprios is crowned king of Vancouver’s music scene.

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THE $100,500 MAN

North Shore native and hip-hop artist Kyprios is crowned king of Vancouver’s music scene. GREG HOEKSTRA S TA F F R E P O RT E R

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n a backstage dressing room at the Commodore Ballroom, David Coles sits on the arm of a brown leather couch, his eyes fixated on the dark hardwood floor. On the wall, a black and white clock reads 9:30 p.m. — less than two hours before Coles, better known as hip-hop artist Kyprios, is due on stage for the most important show of his career. This is a rare moment of silence for Coles, whose dressing room has been like a revolving door for the musicians and crew members who will join him on stage at tonight’s Peak Performance Project (PPP) finale. After months of challenges, workshops and sleepless nights, the PPP — an annual contest hosted by radio station The Peak 100.5 FM and the Music BC Industry Association — culminates tonight with performances by the top-3 finalists and the awarding of the grand prize, a cheque for $100,500. When Coles isn’t going over last-minute notes with his band, he’s glued to his phone, trying to make sure all of his supporters, friends and family get through the doors. “When you have tickets to a sold-out show that everyone wants to be at, you become the most popular guy in the city,” he says. “There are a lot of people who helped me get to this point, and I want to make sure they’re all here for tonight.” On stage, Victoria’s Vince Vaccaro is playing his brand of laid-back beach rock, and Coles finds himself singing along. “How perfect is Vince’s music for this station?” he says to one of his band members. “Some of these songs are made for The Peak.” As the only hip-hop act in the contest, Coles admits he never expected to make it to the top three. In fact, he never expected the Peak’s jurors to place him in the top-20 out of the hundreds of B.C. bands who applied. But, now that he’s here, he intends to make the most of the opportunity. Tonight’s show, he says, is all about taking risks. “High-risk, high-reward.” SHOW TIME

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y 10:30 p.m. the Commodore is buzzing — at capacity with nearly 1,000 fans filling its tables, four bars and dance floor. As the second act of the night, Vancouver-based indie rockers Said the Whale, take the stage, fluffy wet snow flakes are falling outside on Granville Street. It’s the first snowfall of the year in a city that rarely sees such weather. “This city’s a mess,” jokes the band’s lead singer, referring to one of the group’s popular titles. Upstairs Kyprios has closed the door to his dressing room and asked everyone but his band members to steer clear. “I need to talk to my guys,” he says, while one of the musicians pens out ten copies of the night’s set list with a black Sharpie marker. “I need to give them the whole motivational half-time coach speech.”


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A DREAM PREVAILS - North Vancouver’s David Coles, a.k.a. Kyprios, performs at the sold-out Commodore Ballroom on Nov. 18 (above). Coles won first place in the annual Peak Performance Project that night, earning him a cheque for $100,500 (below). Greg Hoekstra photos For the next half hour or so the band meets behind closed doors. Although the winner of the contest was already decided prior to tonight’s concert — the answer is sealed in an envelop inside a safe somewhere in the building — Kyprios and crew still want to go out with a bang. “We’re going to end this the way it should be ended,” he says. GRAND FINALE

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t’s around 11:30 p.m. when the house lights dim and Kyprios takes his first steps on stage. In a fedora, black suit, black shirt and white tie, the North Shore native doesn’t fit the standard mould of a hip-hop artist, and neither does much of his music. Behind him is a ten-piece ensemble, decked to the nines in suits and suspenders. There’s a guitarist, drummer, bass player, and DJ, but also a keyboardist, horn section (trumpet and sax) and back-up singers. For 13 songs the band jumps from one sound to another. In some songs Kyprios spits rapid-fire lyrics into the microphone, in others he borrows a more soulful approach from the likes of Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright,” James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” and The Stampeders “Sweet City Woman.” Coles makes no secret of the fact that his love of hiphop music stemmed from a love of poetry during his days at North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas secondary school. It was his older brother who first introduced him to rap music and launched him into the world he now loves. Without that influence, he wouldn’t be standing on stage in front of 1,000 people, vying for a sum of

money that could provide a huge boost to his musical pursuits. For the past decade, Kyprios has been working nonstop to make a name for himself in the often cutthroat music business, both as a solo artist and as a part of a larger collective called the Sweatshop Union.

After high school he spent time living in both Toronto and New York City learning about the business, about performing, and about how to put together an album he can be proud of. He’s toured North America, stayed in dumpy motels and lived off of greasy fast food. It hasn’t been easy, he says, but it’s all about to be worthwhile. After 13 songs, Kyprios and the band wrap up their set, then take their place at the side of the stage for the final announcement. Moments later, when the safe is opened and Coles’s name is revealed as the grand-prize winner, the musician is knocked to the ground by a tidal wave of shock and sheer joy. Hoisting the giant $100,500 cheque over his head, Coles’s eyes well up with tears. He pulls his fiancé, Ingrid, on stage and wraps his arms around her. Confetti is flying through the air and the crowd is still chanting his name. The moment is perfect. Back stage, with the champagne flowing, Coles is celebrating the victory in a group hug with his mom, brother and fiancé, when he’s asked to describe what it feels like to be named the big winner. “Try to sum up ten years of ups and downs, of sleeping in s***** motel rooms and eating s***** food, of hard work and hardship, and then take all that and put it as a weight on your shoulders,” he says. “Tonight, it felt like that weight was lifted for the first time and I was finally able to take a step out into the light. Tonight is about a continual dream that, throughout it all, prevailed.” ghoekstra@northshoreoutlook.com twitter.com/greghoekstra


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Savion Glover lets his feet do the talking in ‘Bare Soundz’ show at Centennial Theatre Nov. 4 and 5. SEAN KOLENKO S TA F F R E P O RT E R

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hortly before the end of Spike Lee’s satirical film Bamboozled, a character named Manray – played by tap dancing legend Savion Glover – stands before a television studio audience, out of costume. The set is silent. The crowd, made up of any number of the multitude of races that is America, had all arrived in black face. And Glover’s character is expected to look the same, after all he’s one of the stars of The New Millennium Minstrel Show, a widely popular variety program fashioned after the early 19th century performances that lampooned black Americans as happy, dancing slaves. But, there was no burnt cork on his face that day; no fire engine red lipstick around his mouth. Manray had decided to, for the fist time in the film, present himself as himself – a lesson Glover says he was taught long before he stepped on any movie set. “It’s my duty to force an education of dance through the hearing of our performance. Looks can be deceiving. In the early days of tap we presented a very selfless, derogatory and dark visual,” said Glover, reached on the phone in his hometown of Newark, N.J. “The men and women I learned from taught me to listen to the sound of dance. That visual is what it is, but the real message is in what you hear.” Bare Soundz, the show Glover has been performing off and on for the past four years, is an extension of that rhythmic belief. He’s worked with Sammy Davis Jr., danced for Bill Clinton and even taught Elmo how to tie his shoes in the past, but for these performances, a stark, bare stage with three wooden platforms is all he needs. There’s no music and no over-the-top entrance for the dancers either. Bare Soundz, according to Glover, is just three guys navigating the past, and future, of tap dancing one click at a time. “It’s free jazz, it’s hip hop, it’s what some call free music. But it’s also the history and details of the men and women who allow me to be a part of this. This is the history of our lives,” he said. “If this dance means that another person ends up knowing about Gregory Hines then we’re doing our job. Maybe one day when I’m gone people will find out about me. But until then, I’m going to share these stories.” For more information on Glover’s North Vancouver shows, visit www.centennialtheatre.com.

‘The men and women I learned from taught me to listen to the sound of dance. That visual is what it is, but the real message is in what you hear,’ explains tap dancing legend Savion Glover (pictured at right). Submitted photo

thearts

Hoofin’ through history

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Tricks and treats for all Gleneagles is going to be crawling with Halloween frights on Friday, Oct. 29. Parents can drop off their kids at Gleneagles Community Centre for an evening of tricks, games and treats, and then head to an adults-only party at the Gleneagles Golf Course Club House. Everyone in the family is encourage to dress up. Best costume prize are up for grabs and there will be appetizers and dancing for the grownups. There will be a cash bar. Tickets cost $29 per adult and $7 per hour for children with a two-hour minimum. The madness starts at 6:30 and runs until 11 p.m. For more information call 604-921-2100.


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Presence Whether it’s performing his band’s music or discussing First Nation issues, for years Tewanee Joseph has been chipping away at stereotypes surrounding his culture. >>PAGES 10-11

ROGER THAT

DNV councillor Roger Bassam will seek the federal Liberal nomination for North Vancouver

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Meet the man behind the largest Remembrance Day parade in Canada

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presence

Whether it be through the performance of his band’s music or discussing First Nation issues, for years Tewanee Joseph has been chipping away at stereotypes surrounding his culture.

Story by Rebecca Aldous Photos by Rob Newell

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astened to one wall are autographed pictures of Canuck players. On the other side of the room hangs artwork of the Four Host First Nations symbol used in the 2010 Olympic Games. Near the front door, droops a New Zealand flag. Each offers an insight into the man sitting on the leather couch, quietly strumming his guitar. “One unbelievable gig was at Canada Place, in front of 2,000 elders from all over B.C.,” Tewanee Joseph says. “We started playing age-appropriate songs, but they screamed at us that they wanted rock and roll.”

The 45-minute set turned into two hours. Eighty, seventy and sixty-year-olds clambered onto the stage to dance. By the end of the night, Joseph had no voice. “So our (band’s) demographics are really wide,” the 38-year-old says, smiling. Five years ago, Joseph started singing. His brother Kee Toy and cousin Wilson Williams were learning guitar and they needed a front man. They’d practise in Joseph’s garage; its thin walls leading to frequent visits from police. Two years later, Joseph picked up a guitar himself. By then, Joseph and Kee’s band had grown to include seven members, five from the Squamish Nation. After debuting at Joseph’s auntie’s 75th birthday party, Bitterly Divine has played 170 shows at some of Vancouver’s iconic venues, like The Yale. This year, the band is up for the Best New Artist award at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, which takes place Nov. 5. It’s a short time period to gain such recognition. But like many things Joseph sets out to do, he quietly achieves his goals. “Somebody once told me that there are no rules in music,” Joseph says when explaining his attraction to singing.

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“You’re never too old to learn something,” he adds.

‘A band that happens to be First Nations’

Joseph’s story reads like a modern day country song. His mother was the Indian Princess of Canada, crowned in New Brunswick. In the ‘70s, she fell in love with a member of the Quin Tikis, a Maori show band that was touring through Vancouver. Joseph suspects his father now lives in Tennessee as a professional musician who plays keyboard. In the coming year he hopes to reconnect with him. “How do you do that?” he says, half-joking. Although Joseph has only met his father once, when he was one-and-a-half years old, music has served in both their lives as a way to connect cultures. Like his father’s tunes, the meaning behind some of Bitterly Divine’s songs delve into his heritage, yet the sound catches most people off-guard. There are no traditional drums, chanting or the whistle of soft-blowing wind — Bitterly Divine is more a meld of the Tragically Hip and the blues. There’s the whine of the harmonica, a thundering bass line and Joseph’s smooth, unmistakably Canadian vocals. It’s got its own twang, its own tough and sexy strut. Song by song, Joseph chips away at stereotypes. “Bitterly Divine is a band that happens to be First Nations,” he says.

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On another stage

Shredding the beads and feather image, is something Joseph has been working on since his early 20s. Joseph grew up in the “gritty” Downtown Eastside, with his mother and Chinese stepfather. During his youth, he attended 11 different schools. But one thing was always constant lacrosse. The sport was his passion and Joseph says it kept him out trouble. “Everything I do, of Upon high school graduation, Joseph was offered a scholarship to play south of the border. But on the verge of packing his bags, the everything is all late Squamish Nation Chief Joe Mathias laid out a challenge: stay in North Vancouver and help First Nations break stereotypes. connected, from Joseph took the words to heart. At 21, he became the youngest love to family to member ever elected to Squamish Nation council, where he served for eight years. playing a gig.” He’s also one of the initiators of the Four Host Nation partnerfor the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, an idea solidified over Tewanee Joseph ship a coffee at Tim Hortons with Chief Gibby Jacobs. The four-way partnership marked the first group of indigenous people to be recognized by the IOC as official Olympic hosts. By the time of the Games, Joseph was chief executive officer for the Four Host Nations Society. “I think the world has a different view of our people now, but I think our people also have a different view of the world,” Joseph says. “That is the legacy of the Olympics.” From the lessons learned during the Olympics, Joseph started his own business — Tewanee Consulting Group. The company contributes to First Nations federal legislation, land management, strategic communications and governance. And when Joseph’s not on stage singing, he’s on stage discussing aboriginal affairs. Most recently, Joseph was a panelist at the Kay Meek Centre seminar on Aboriginal Land Development: Empower or Too Much Power?

The power of music

Music, Joseph says, kind of ties it all together. On Bitterly Divine’s latest album, When Blood Comes Calling, Joseph combined lyrics written by his wife and four-and-a-half-year old son with his songs. There’s also ideas taken from First Nation lore. Family, culture, aspirations, and simply being Canadian comes together with the strum of the guitar. “Everything I do, everything is all connected, from love to family to playing a gig.” raldous@northshoreoutlook.com

BREAKING STEREOTYPES (Above) Tewanee Joseph sits with his guitar in front of a photo of Bitterly Divine’s gig at the River Rock Casino Resort. (Right) Joseph stands outside the 2010 Aboriginal Pavilion during the Olympics. The pavilion, which Joseph helped organize through the Four Host Nations Society, saw more than 100,000 visitors through its doors. The Winter Games allowed First Nations to share their culture with the world, he said.

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