A Tribe Called Red electric powwow

A Wednesday night at the Northcote Social Club, and the crowd was boppin’ along like it was the weekend. It was hard to remember it was a schoolnight when First Nations band A Tribe Called Red took to the stage.

For those of you who need to brush up on your cultural lingo, ‘First Nations’ is the term for the indigenous people of Canada. I’ve known about them for a few years, ever since coming across them on one of my favourite blogs, Native Appropriations. (Read it for a dose of Native American culture from the U.S.)

Seeing the trio of DJ NDN, Bear Witness, and 2oolman in action was nothing like I’d expected. I’d figured their show would be a bit hip-hop style: all swagger around the stage while mouthing into the mic. Not so. The three guys lined up behind their computers, furiously mixing and re-mixing, sampling songs and beats. All the while, projections of old cowboy’n’Indian films, scenes from Pocahontas, and shots of animated teepees in outer space filled the back wall. My +1 and I found the images interesting. What was A Tribe Called Red trying to say? That the representations were wrong? That they were being re-appropriated? That they’re kinda cool? (I mean, how could you not enjoy a teepee in space…?)

They’ve created their own form of music: ‘Electric Powwow‘. Deep beats with soaring native ululations are a mixture you don’t often hear; certainly not alongside samples from Inglorious Basterds where Brad Pitt talks about having a ‘little Injun’ in him and asks for scalps.

My favourite part of the night was when a fancydancer took to the stage. (Fancydancing = Native American/First Nations traditional dancing. See the film: The Business of Fancydancing.) Dressed in full regalia — alongside comfy sneaks — the guest dancer took to the stage, flinging himself and his hoops in a mixture of the traditional and modern.

That’s A Tribe Called Red right there.

– Theresa
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa loves exploring all the cultures of the world.

Visit A Tribe Called Red’s website and Facebook, and purchase their albums.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Secret Service.