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Welcome to the Cypher is Teaching Hip-Hop Philosophy From the Heart

Tribe Artist Society’s hybrid dance party brings two distinct cultures to centre stage at the High Performance Rodeo. 

by Stephan Boissonneault 

Calgary’s Dwight Farahat is a multi-disciplined artist, with roots in the the Siksika Nation, Palestine, and Wales, who has dedicated his adult life to one mission—teaching hip-hop culture and rap to underprivileged youth. He does so with his Tribe Artist Society, an Indigenous-led arts hip-hop community he has been building over the years.

Attendees of the city’s High Performance Rodeo will get a taste of what Farahat and his society do with a performance called Welcome To The Cypher. “It’s kind of like a live performance/dance party,” he says. “The idea is to expose people to a little slice of our world. We throw hip-hop cyphers every Monday for the community, mainly rap cyphers. And that’s kind of how it started out.”

For the uninitiated, a cypher in the hip-hop world is a gathering of rappers, MCs, beat-boxers, dancers, breakers, poets — you name it — meeting in a circle to make some music. But Farahat likes to think of it more as a conversation between people in a circle. 

“Remember recess as a kid? When you would stand around in a circle with your friends, and you all would just talk and share jokes and stuff? We do the same thing except with music and dance. We do a lot of freestyle rapping cyphers with freestyle dance and poetry, but yeah, it’s meant for sharing what’s on your mind,” he says.

These cyphers can be light-hearted, but every odd time they become very powerful and heavy. Farahat and his society live for these moments. “Quite often, we’ll have people who are just telling parts of their story or rapping about their week. So it’s like, this person is talking about breakfast, let me respond by talking about my dinner,” he laughs. “But it does get a little deep when people get comfortable with the group. People start talking about their feelings and that kind of helps you feel like you’re not so alone.”

Teaching rap isn’t just something you just fall into, but for Farahat, it kind of was.  He remembers growing up in a group home and being part of a rap group made up of staff and other kids there. As he grew into an adult, he found a passion in social work, but always used rap as a way to express himself. One day, he got a call from that same group home and was asked to host a rap workshop. 

“It was like, ‘Hey Dwight, I remember you used to rap here. Do you want to teach how?’ So I said ‘Yes,’ before even thinking about it or how I could teach it and then it became another passion,” he says. “The truth is, anyone can rap. When you’re teaching rap, you’re not actually teaching rap, but you’re teaching confidence. So it’s so cool to see someone’s confidence grow in a few short weeks.”

During Welcome To The Cypher the audience will witness the beats of DJ GoodMedicine, Nasty G (who will also hold a small history lesson on DJing), spoken-word poetry from a performer who goes by Bucho, and a few of Farahat’s own raps as he performs them under his hip-hop moniker, Tribe.1491.

“Lots of people can actually be intimidated by hip-hop or rap. So we can kind of show them in a safe way, what it’s like to be in our world,” Farahat says. “A big part of being in the circle or cypher is to really be part of the event, be really in the moment, and give off your own positive energy.”

Join Tribe Arts Society for Welcome to the Cypher on Friday, Jan. 20 at the Big Secret Theatre | TICKETS