Last night, while I was hanging out with some friends, one of them asked me if I had ever heard the electronic dance music (EDM) group called “A Tribe Called Red.”
“A tribe called what?” I asked. My friend shook his head and put on this song. The first thing that ran through my mind was, “I’m in love.” My second thought was, “Should I even listen to this?” I really hoped I wasn’t listening to cultural appropriation in the most blatant, bass-pumping, chill-giving form imaginable.
So today, I did a little homework and found out some very exciting things. Not only is 100% acceptable for a culturally sensitive person to listen to A Tribe Called Red, the group deserves a big shout out for everything they’re doing.
The group is comprised of deejays Shub, Bear Witness and NDN. All the members are First Nation indigenous people from Canada. They remix traditional powwow music with electronic music to produce a sound that is unique to say the least. Through their music exploration, they’ve created a new niche in the ever-changing EDM scene called “electric powwow.”
Not only do they make great music, they give voice to issues affecting native populations. Their song “Woodcarver” is about the 2010 shooting of John T. Williams, a totem wood carver in Seattle, Wash. The song combines audio of the shooting itself and news reports of the incident.
They have addressed their fans directly when it comes to issues of cultural appropriation. They weighed in on the issues of racist sports team names and white fans wearing headdresses. Beyond social commentary, they’ve rallied together native communities across Canada and the U.S. “The way that the aboriginal community has owned our music is amazing,” DJ Bear Witness said in an interview with Noisography.com. “A Tribe Called Red is more than what we do, it’s the movement that started around what we do and the way people in our community have said this is what we need, we identify with it, this is for us.”
I might be jumping on the bandwagon a little late, but I’m glad I’m on it. Listening to music from an amazing group can only be improved knowing that they’re working to increase awareness about issues that often go unnoticed by “the mainstream.”