N’we Jinan. We belong Here


In the world of great ideas involving young people, a project called N’we Jinan is making music in first nation communities across Canada.


‘The N’we Jinan Tour is a music initiative that brings a mobile recording studio into schools and community centres across First Nation communities in Canada. The tour is a collaborative project commissioned by the Cree Nation Youth Council in Quebec. The program is aimed to create an environment where youth can express themselves musically and creatively under the guidance of a professional music producer. As there is a need for music programs in many First Nation communities, the N’we Jinan offers a dynamic approach to music education. Participants learn about recording, music production, song writing, performance, marketing and design. The tour is documented by a professional film team where interviews and live performance sessions are captured, encouraging youth to emerge from their shells and to express themselves.’


The foundation for N’we Jinan is born out of a partnership between David Hodges, a music hip-hop producer and youth worker from Montreal, Quebec and Joshua Iserhoff, Grand Chief of the Cree Nation Youth Council in Quebec. For over 10 years, both individuals have been on a journey helping to uplift youth around their communities.


“Music is a universal language. Music offers young people an opportunity to create music, in a safe environment. Meaning ‘We Live Here, We belong Here’, N’we Jinan is empowering youth in first nation communities to find the voice inside of them, and express that voice through original music and lyrics. In a declaration that we belong here, music is the best way to shape that,” said David Hodges

N’we Jinan, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, brings youth together, in a way that allows them to open up about struggles, joys, and stories that resonate with them. “The young people put their heart and soul into these songs,” he said.


N’we Jinan went to Grassy Narrows First Nation in early February 2016. Located in northwestern Ontario, Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation is about 2 1/2 hours north of Kenora, Ontario. The temperatures were very frigid when David Hodges and Josh Iserhoff were there, dipping well below -30 Celcius.

The mobile studio is key to the process. Students from the Grassy Narrows High Schools’ com-tech class were involved with the project, including Sharice Bruce, Dylan Fobister, Jimi Fobister, Preston Paul, Darwin Fobister, Janessa Kejick, Damien Kejick, Ashley Fobister, Linda Fobister, Paul Cedric Oteskan, and Josh Bigblood.

Saultonine spoke with Darryl Michaluk, a high school teacher with Asubpeeschoseewagong Education Authority and 6 students from the com-tech class about their experience with N’we Jinan. Paul, Ashley, Jami, Sharice, Preston and Darwin shared reflections on creating an original song called ‘Home to Me’.

“It was an awesome experience, amazing to have the guys come here and work with us. Making the music video was the best part,” said Sharice.

The music video, which has not yet been released, was shot all around Asubpeechoseewagong First Nation with students from the high school, ranging in ages 14-19 years-old. “There was one more person from the community named Edmond Jack, who shared traditional drumming & singing for the song. The whole video was shot in about three days,” said Darryl Michaluk.

Jimi shared: “I’m really proud of myself and everyone else that was involved with the song.”
Lyrics were written collaboratively with the group of students.

Darwin said: “We thought of the old reserve where we used to live. People used to talk about how happy they were there. It felt more like home. People talk about the beauty of the area, the scenery, and how things were more positive over there. The kokums (grandmothers, ancestors) told us how happy they were when they lived there. On a canoe trip, we stopped there and you could feel the positive energy around you. ‘Home to Me’ is about looking back, and the future of our culture.”

“They (N’we Jinan) took a lot of ideas, and thoughts from the students, teaching them about rhythm and rhyme for about the first day and a half,” said Darryl.

“Then they had the students singing different pieces, and pulled it all together with music that they provided. It was all done last week, and it was pretty cold when we were out shooting the music video.” On the day SaultOnline spoke with the students, it was -38 Celcius.

“This is a place where we love the land. Keep us safe, keep us free.” (from the song ‘Home to Me’.)

Thank you to Darryl Michaluk for sharing pictures with SaultOnline, and for arranging time to speak with students involved with ‘Home to Me’. All music is mixed and produced by David
Visit David Hodges website at: http://hodgesmusic.com/ 



  1. The First Nations youth from across the country are speaking out with a strong voice. We are learning much from them. Thanks to all the youth from Grassy Narrows for sharing your story. Thinking a lot about your community these days as we follow N’we Jinan on its current tour through the communities of the Eeyou Ischtee. Great article Lynne Brown.

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