'Vibes with the Tribes' indigenous music festival premieres Saturday

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

A new Detroit festival aims to bridge Native American tradition with modern music. Saturday’s “Vibes with the Tribes” bills itself as Michigan’s first indigenous music festival and celebrates Anishinaabe culture. It will take place in southwest Detroit on traditional Anishinaabe lands. 

Anishinaabe is a collective term that encompasses Native American and First Nation people from the Great Lakes area, including the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewademi nations.

“We wanted to create a space where we can highlight who we are in modern times, and how we are still connected to our traditional teachings,” said Raymond Elwart Jr., who founded the festival with his partner, Hadassah GreenSky. 

Raymond Elwart Jr. and Hadassah GreenSky are founders of the Vibes with the Tribes Festival.

The festival takes place in two parts. Beginning with an opening ceremony, the afternoon will celebrate cultural traditions and feature inter-tribal powwow dancing, including Fancy Shawl and Jingle Dress dancing. There will also be three drum groups and a hand drum contest. 

The evening will transition to a modern music festival with performances by indigenous musicians from across the United States and Canada. First Nation singer Fawn Wood headlines the festival, coming to Detroit from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to perform traditional Cree hand drum music. The rest of the lineup features Native American hip hop performers, including Stuart James (Dakota), Def-I (Navaho), Kitto (Ojibwe and Dakota), Suppynvrldies (Bodewademi) and Elwart himself (Ojibwe), who goes by the stage name Soufy. 

“There’s never been a music festival like this ever,” GreenSky said. “We’ll be making history.”

In addition to music and dancing, the festival will also feature a 20-foot teepee, an interactive installation from the Bawaadan Collection in Toronto. 

“I’m really excited,” GreenSky said. “They put out a lot of really great art.”

Both Elwart and GreenSky come from indigenous families and share a passion for their cultural traditions as well as art. Elwart had a lot of friends who were also indigenous artists and said creating a festival in his hometown seemed natural, especially with Detroit’s Native American history and population.

“A lot of times we have to travel far places to experience our culture,” he said. “Now it’s going to be right in the city.”

“Vibes with the Tribes” was supposed to debut last year but had to go virtual due to COVID-19. Artists flew in from around the country and the event was streamed live on  Facebook. 

Elwart said the festival is not only a place for indigenous people to celebrate their culture but is an opportunity to educate those who may have misconceptions.

“If people come and have old thoughts and beliefs on how Native American people live, they can show up on the 28th and see how we really are,” he said, “and not just stereotypes on TV.”

'Vibes with the Tribes'

1-10 p.m. Saturday

4132 Bagley St., Detroit

Tickets: $20 online or $25 at the door; dancer tickets are half off; VIP tickets are $100, which includes access to the Exclusive Artist Lounge, a meal voucher and gift pack.

Visit www.vibeswiththetribes.com