Arbor-iginal T.V. show seeks to expose new native talent

Arbor Live unites rockstars with emerging talent

Where else says TV star and legendary guitarist Stevie Salas are native audiences in remote locations across Canada going to see a program that directly speaks to them?

“There’s really a huge untapped audience there” says Salas the host of music variety show Arbor Live appearing on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

The show has featured the likes of Velvet Revolver Mötley Crüe Buckcherry Papa Roach Comeback Kid and Joe Satriani. An impressive list perhaps more so considering the show is only in its second season.

“We’ve had more superstars in our short life than any show in Canadian history” Salas claims.

Salas who is of Mescalero Apache heritage stars alongside Eric Schweig star of such films as The Last of the Mohicans and Skins — the 2002 film not the British teen drama of the same name — who plays Salas’s “assistant.” The premise? They and their comedic director Steelbird run a…well a music variety show. Chaotically.

Does the show specifically emphasize an aboriginal dimension? Or is it just a lively funny show with talented guys who happen to be aboriginal?

“A little of both and a lot of something else” Salas replies.

And while Salas was selected as a guitarist by funk legend George Clinton made Guitar Player magazine’s list of the all-time top 50 guitarists and became the youngest-ever recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Native American Music Awards the show isn’t about him or his achievements. The real priority he says is exposing new aboriginal talent.

“I want to bring the mainstream to the Indians” Salas says. “But I also want to bring more Indians into the mainstream.”

What Salas had discovered was that many talented native musicians were simply playing to the same native audiences who already knew and loved them. Not that there was anything wrong with that “but I thought we have to find new audiences for these guys” Salas says. And for its part Arbor Live ’s second-season programming features such artists as Leela Gilday Kinnie Starr George Leach Claude McKenzie Dreadnaut and Tracy Bone.

“Any minority could have fit the concept really” Salas says. “But we’re ourselves and we use the ‘who’ to present a native angle.”

“When we pitched the show to the network I wanted to emphasize the comedy side of things” he continues. “Music shows are notorious for not selling advertising.”

Not that this is strictly a comedy or strictly a music show either. The term Salas prefers is “scripted reality show.”

“It’s kind of like a sketch show but no one wants it to look like a sketch show. But I don’t really like full-on reality TV either” he says. “We’ll have ideas pieces of a script. Basically we’re more comfortable riffing. I was really stiff when I read from a script. Everyone’s very charismatic with great senses of humour and it’s better to just be natural.”

“When we had Winnipeg blues musician Billy Joe Green on playing a trapper who knew what he’d come up with?”

And that’s the kind of thing that it would seem would play well in Yellowknife. Does Salas think that would fly?

“Sure. I mean why not? It’s just fun for anyone.”

Complete schedule and program information for Arbor Live can be found by visiting aptn.ca.