A Tribe Called Red Discuss Life on the Pow Wow Highway

A Tribe Called Red Discuss Life on the Pow Wow Highway
Pow wow-step champions A Tribe Called Red aren't just hitting the road in support of their second album, the newly released Nation II Nation, they're redefining it. Dee Jay NDN, Bear Witness and DJ Shub recently finished up playing an eclectic circuit of clubs, festivals and pow wows on their North American jaunt and have headed to Europe before touring Canada and the U.S. again this summer. It's all come with a larger Tribe Called Red audience than ever before, but is there a chance that their messages of Aboriginal pride, self-determination and anti-racism might get lost?

As the band explain, a lot of new listeners are coming on board who have had little contact with First Nations cultures. But as Bear tells Exclaim!, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.

"What we're saying in our music says two really different things to those two groups of people," he explains. "When we're playing in Winnipeg, and it's a 95 percent aboriginal crowd, you're playing for pride, to make everybody feel that feeling you have in your heart, in your chest. That makes you want to jump up and down and dance. That's the basis of what we do in promoting our music within our own community.

"When we're playing for a non-indigenous crowd it's like an insidious education when they're not aware they're being taught that maybe certain things are racist. We're showing them the realities of who we are as Aboriginal people now. They don't even know that they're getting it. It's a spoonful of sugar [approach]."

CDs may be in decline, but the road seems to favour this format as far as ATCR is concerned. Their record company, Tribal Spirit, also makes drums for pow wows and are plugged into an extensive network of their own across North America. Nation II Nation is constructed from samples from Tribal Spirit's roster of artists, who themselves are touring. With mainstream press coming ATCR's way to complement their ever-growing respect among Aboriginal nations, the Nation II Nation tour promises to pay dividends for all concerned.

"Tribal Spirit sell their CDs on the pow wow trail," explains Bear. "They were just in Albuquerque selling our CD, as well as all the drum groups that we've sampled. It's awesome cross promotion that's happening between us and them. We got a report: they were told they had to [stop selling] our CD at their booth because it was creating a traffic jam. That's exciting to hear!"

ATCR will tour through the summer, including stops across the Canadian provinces from June to August. Find their tour schedule here.