free download: a tribe called red’s revolutionary debut. #soundcheck

March 5, 2014

Sometimes you hear something so fresh but so natural and the only thing you can think is “how is it possible no-one’s done this before?” With the case of Toronto’s A Tribe Called Red, the answer is as obvious as it is damning of North American culture at large. Using Native American pow-wow chants as the backbone for what they call “pow-wowstep” the trio of native producers seeks to blend native dance with modern dance culture, and the results on A Tribe Called Red are simply mind-blowing.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

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The mere existence of their music is social commentary, and the band combines it with re-purposed stereotypical Hollywood depictions of Native Americans in their live shows. DJ Bear Witness states their intent simply in an interview with MTVIggy: “Reclaim, repurpose and reuse. I like to look past the automatic reaction to say these images are racist or stereotypes (which they are) and flip it around. We make these images our own. Taking away the power they have to harm us and reclaim it for ourselves. It’s like how we and many other young Native people like to wear things like the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves logos. We have made these images our own.”

The album largely keeps its focus squarely on the dance floor, content to let the social commentary at its core be implicit. But on the track “Woodcarver,” A Tribe Called Red samples news clips about the shooting death of Seattle woodcarver John T. Williams by Seattle Police officer Ian Burke. The track leverages the disorientation at the core of dubstep to instill a sense of “what the actual fuck?” in the listener. It’s haunting, powerful, and straight up rage inducing.

Dub influences, Drum ‘n’ Bass, and even Soca pop up throughout the album, particularly on their killer remix of DJ Munchi’s “Shottas.” The album closes out with the brilliant “General Generations.” Based around a loop of a wax cylinder recording of a Cayuga tribal leader from the 30’s, it’s the perfect synthesis of what A Tribe Called Red is about. A nearly lost voice from the past brought back to life 80 years later; his voice still inviting people to dance.