On December 7, 2016, a Wednesday evening, A Tribe Called Red sold out Chicago’s Lincoln Hall. Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, ATCR is turning up the beat on the human tribe’s dance party. With globalized attention on the water protectors at Standing Rock ND, the time is ripe for ATCR to bring their indigenous music to the masses.
Indigenous music is a gift. It is given to the musicians from the spirit of the land. ATCR presents a dance music version of the native songs and drums traditional to the First Nations. They blend break dancing with pow wow dancing while projecting pop culture images and old western stereotypical Indian images on the screen above them. It's a marriage of what they are and what you think they are. The result is a striking show asking you to update your ideas of Native America.
DJ Intel opened up the evening spinning many genres including house and hip hop. He was a great choice to emphasize ATCR’s musical inclusion for all people. He closed out his set with a blend of old and new Tribe Called Quest, ATCR’s name inspiration. By 8:30 pm, Lincoln Hall was packed from the floor to the rafters. The crowd reflected the diverse and universal themes of the music. Mohawks, medicine wheels, beads, flat brim hats, and leather coats adorned the audience as they bobbed their heads to the rasta mixes.
If hip hop music brought African American culture to the mainstream, ATCR can use this time in our political unrest to bring Indigenous issues to light as well. Tradition, loyalty, and heritage are conveyed in their music. Music is such a vital part of Indigenous culture. They sing to bring rain, to treat the sick, to bring success all while using music to preserve their people’s history in oral tradition.
Robbie Robertson of The Band, Indigenous the band, and John Trudell have all made their marks on mainstream media to bring attention to Indigenous issues in the past. ATCR is so different in a funky fresh way though. What has been brought forth in spiritual and somber ways of the past, ATCR has spiced up into a high-energy dance party. The deconstructed beats blend traditional call & response pow wow music with dub-step beats and hilarious sound clips to keep the crowd smiling.
“We are not a conquered people!”
“It’s a good day to be Indigenous!”
In between playing their fierce dance bangers like Stadium Pow Wow and Burn Your Village, ATCR dropped a sample of the Village People’s Cherokee People. They brought out 4 dancers that would change up between street clothes and traditional regalia. They brought the energy to the stage that lifted the party to new heights. When ATCR bust out a sample of the 90’s hit Informer by Snow, the infectious smiles had reached the entire crowd, busting out some good belly laughs.
We Are the Haluci Nation was released this past fall and opens with John Trudell’s words accompanied by beats that will blow up your next party. The Virus features Saul Williams’ spoken word that will cut through your heart, even if you don’t care for dance music.
As the planet reaches emergency status, the protectors must band together as a human tribe to restore the balance. As Indigenous issues become everyone’s issues, A Tribe Called Red will unite us together with a good booty soul shakedown to melt away the tension. There is no better tool to unite us all than music. ATCR’s music may be exactly what HOPE sounds like. The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth. Where else can we boogie down?