On Tour: A Tribe Called Red
One magaizine writer called A Tribe Called Red “an audio-visual, cultural phenomenon,” and after watching to one of their more popular YouTube videos, “Electric Powwow Drum,” it’s clear they are definitely something different. The Ottawa DJ trio of Daniel General (DJ Shub), Thomas Ehren Ramon (Bear Weitness), and Ian Campeau (DJ NDN) has been tearing up stages in their latest Cross Canada Tour with their viscous sound, which includes traditional drumming, reggae’s pulse and sway, and dubstep beats. The Globe and Mail described their music saying, “A Tribe Called Red displays its mastery subtly… and you realize that the powwow elements in their songs are positioned to accent the syncopation in the electronics—an innovative, respectful way to bring traditional music into contemporary practice.” They are currently backing their latest tour to support new album mixes on Nation II Nation, which was just released in May through Pirates Blend Records/Tribal Spirit Music.
They have once again been nominated for a Polaris Music Prize, a music award (and hefty cash prize) given to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label. Polaris celebrates the highest artistic integrity, without regard to professional affiliation; nominated artists are judged by selected music journalists, broadcasters, and bloggers. Past winners include Broken Social Scene, Grammy nominee Feist, and Arcade Fire (also Grammy Award winners for Best Album in 2011). So, if A Tribe Called Red is added to the short list on July 16, and then goes on to win at the September 23 Polaris Music Prize Gala, it would definitely propel the group into international recognition.
A Tribe Called Red is the natural extension of something that’s been brewing in Canada for several generations, and is just coming to a head right now. Aboriginal artists—in particular the burgeoning community of young urbanite thinkers and makers in Canada’s cities—take what’s available (new technology, images, and sounds) and link it to a long line of creativity. The results may tear up the club, but could also manage to flip assumptions, reclaim clichés, and work social change.
The group got its start hosting one of Ottawa’s hottest club nights, the Electric Pow Wow. Things clicked quickly, after founders Bear Witness and DJ NDN teamed up with Canadian DMC champ DJ Shub. After their first chat, DJ Shub (Daniel), who is an experienced hip-hop producer, rushed back to his home several hours away and managed to have the first powwow-inspired track in his collaborators’ inboxes the next morning. Thanks to their wide-ranging curiosity and broad-minded creativity, the trio rapidly won a huge local following—inside and outside the Aboriginal community—and injected fresh energy into the already bubbling Aboriginal arts scene.
Nation ll Nation is the result of a unique partnership between A Tribe Called Red and the Aboriginal Co-op Label, Tribal Spirit Music run by Joywind and Robert Todd. Tribal Spirit began as crafters and drum makers on the Powwow Trail. After having built powwow drums and hand drums for groups all over North America, the couple saw a need for an outlet that would help singers grow and develop as artists. Tribal Spirit Music is committed to protecting artistic rights and encouraging strong economic development. Their label has a fair trade co-op structure, which facilitated the exchanges between A Tribe Called Red and all the drum groups.
One quote pulled from Nation II Nation really defines this trio: “After what happened in the last hundred years, the simple fact that we are here today is a political statement. As First Nations People, everything we do is political.” Get ready for the pulsing creativity of Nation II Nation and don’t miss the dynamic live show from A Tribe Called Red on tour this summer performing at local venues and music festivals including the Ottawa Bluesfest, Winnipeg Folk Fest, Squamish Valley Music Festival, and many more. Keep up with the latest on their Facebook page (look for A Tribe Called Red) and visit atribecalledred.com for information, advance tickets, and tour schedule.