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Hip hop zumba and poetry slams: House of PainT launches two weeks earlier this year

Apart from the “four cornerstones” of hip hop – DJing, rapping, dancing and graffiti art – the four-day festival will include more panel discussions.

The House of PainT Festival of Arts and Culture is returning to Brewer Park this year.

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The House of PainT Festival of Arts and Culture is returning to Brewer Park this year.

Back when he was a kid living on an Ottawa Valley farm, Patrick McCormack discovered hip hop.

“I wrote my first rap. It was something about the Gulf War,” he said. “It was an anti-war song.”

That was in the early 1990s, when McCormack was first drawn to the political and social messages behind hip hop. Now general manager of the House of PainT Festival of Arts and Culture, he’s trying to offer a glimpse into its cultural roots. 

“For some people, it’s just music that they hear on the radio or it’s a style of dance that they see people doing on America’s Got Talent or America’s best Dance Crew,” he said. “It depends who you ask, but as a culture, it still has that relevance and that connection to newcomer communities here, to racialized communities and to other communities.”

The festival runs Aug. 25-28 at Brewer Park, which is about two weeks earlier than usual. That’s partly due to weather (the festival has had bad luck with rain in September) and the busy back-to-school schedule, when students are more focused on settling in than dancing at a festival.

Apart from the “four cornerstones” of hip hop – DJing, rapping, dancing and graffiti art – the four-day festival will include more panel discussions and workshops than in previous years.

“Knowledge is a very important element of the culture where we talk about why hip hop is relevant for us in this place and time and all over the world,” McCormack said.

One panel discussion, entitled Ladies First, will address mainstream hip hop’s often misogynist and sexist messages.

“How do we cultivate a hip hop that is a safer space and that is more welcoming and that has economic and professional opportunities for women?” said McCormack.

Another panel will look at how hip hop intersects with social and political issues.

“It’s an art form that was born out of a desire to have social and political voices through the arts," said McCormack. "So people who were pushed to the shadows in the poorest neighbourhoods of New York City, who were told that they have no means to express themselves or a means for empowerment, whether that be self-esteem or economic empowerment or education."

"I think that is the spirit of hip hop.”

A full lineup of the graffiti artists, musicians, poets, and DJs is available at houseofpaint.ca

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