Band of the month

October 2, 2016


A Tribe Called Red

“We are the tribe that they cannot see. We live on an industrial reservation. We are the Halluci Nation. We have been called the Indians. We have been called Native American. We have been called hostile. We have been called pagan. We have been called militant. We have been called many names. We are the the Halluci Nation … We are the evolution. The continuation.”

The words are those of Native American poet John Trudell, who died a few months ago. They provide the concept, the title, and the opening track of the new album by the Canadian trio A Tribe Called Red (ATCR). Here they are again, with music and images added :

A Tribe Called Red – We Are The Halluci Nation

ATCR are three DJs who also belong to First Nations communities. A few years back they had the idea of mixing pow pow (Native American music with drums and chanting) with electronic dance and hip hop beats. The success of their party nights in Ottawa gave them encouragement to start creating their own music. A Tribe Called Red was released in 2012 and Nation II Nation in 2013 to a chorus of great reviews. The band are not just musicians, they are cultural activists. They believe that First Nations people should define their own identity and culture, and not have to dance to anyone else’s tune. ATCR’s Bear Witness : “We’re always being looked at through the lens of colonialism, and we’re never portraying ourselves. We’re starting to take control of that, but it’s really just beginning.”

And so Halluci Nation was born : a vision of progressively minded indigenous artists around the world coming together in solidarity and sharing their knowledge and ideas. The album We are the Halluci Nation was to be a collective effort, a series of collaborations recorded in different continents.  Yasiin Bey (aka political rapper Mos Def) appears on R.E.D Swedish/Sami singer Maxida Märak on Eanan; electro-Aboriginal group OKA from Australia on Maima Koopi. But the aim isn’t to create some amorphous fusion of beats. The tracks on the album flow from one to the other, each one feels like it belongs. Both sonically and conceptually, this is a very exciting album. It’s music that acknowledges the past but looks to the future; music that gets young people dancing but challenges them too. A frantic, exhilarating track will be followed by something slow and soulful, giving us chances to take breath, perhaps to reflect. The heavy dance beats won’t be for everyone, but if you were a fan of The Prodigy then you should love this.

A Tribe Called Red – The Virus

How to describe this ? Alternative hip hop artist Saul Williams delivers some great lines; there’s bursts of drumming and community singing; and a bass heavy soundtrack of big, dirty beats.

A Tribe Called Red – Sila

If you’ve not heard Tanya Tagaq before, you’re in for a shock. Tanya’s a Canadian Inuit throat singer, and one of the most unique and viscerally exciting singers in the world today. The range of sounds that she produces leaves you gasping. The dance beat turns out to be a good fit.

A Tribe Called Red – Alie Nation

Another spoken word poem by John Trudell, followed by more vocal acrobatics by Tanya Tagaq.

A Tribe Called Red – Indian City

Northern Voice are a Canadian Powwow Drum group who also appeared on ATCR’s previous album.

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