By: Adriel Smiley and Valerie Dittrich
Indigenous-Canadian DJ collective, A Tribe Called Red are making waves throughout the country with their new take on traditional First Nations beats and dance music, showcasing indigenous culture in a positive and uplifting way with their fresh take on the electronic genre.
A Tribe Called Red performed their third sold-out show at the Danforth Music Hall last Friday. The group has been on the Fall/Winter segment of their tour since November, making stops in cities across Canada and the U.S. Tribe performs a unique genre of music that blends various style of music, such as hip hop and reggae with First Nations drumming and chanting.
The band was formed in 2008 by Ian Campeau, Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas and DJ Shub. A decade later, Bear Witness is the only original member remaining, with Shub leaving the group in 2014 for personal reasons. Campeau recently made his exit in 2017, claiming that touring was becoming “emotionally draining”. This was their first time touring since Campeau left. Tim “2oolman” Hill and Bear Witness are the two remaining members and have chosen to continue as a duo for the time being.
The band credits their unique sound to their roots in Ottawa. In an interview with NPR Music, they “wanted to throw a party that was geared toward the Indigenous community in Ottawa.” Under their pseudonym “Electric Powwow”, they opted to sample traditional drum beats over hip-hop sounds and dubstep-like synths, creating a genre of music that not only celebrates their culture, but puts a focus on Canada as a whole.
During the show, five screens surrounded the stage and images on the screen moved quickly in sync with the fast-paced beats. The images depicted Indigenous people in popular culture; from DreamWorks’ Road to El Dorado to Michael Jackson’s “Black and White” music video.
Throughout the show, Tribe was joined on stage by a group of dancers who took turns busting a move to the break-beats. The dancers added to the overall experience with their dynamic set filled with hard-hitting drops, heavy bass and creative and magnetic sounds ripping through the venue. Within a few minutes it was easy to recognize this show had the vibe of a huge party rather than a concert. The audience was engulfed with A Tribe Called Red’s original and patriotic tunes. The show ended with two dancers in traditional Aboriginal clothing on stage. As the last note hit they threw their fists in the air and the crowd did the same. With hundreds of fists in the air, Tribe as well as the dancers cleared the stage. The Danforth dance party finally came to a close and A Tribe Called Red ended the weekend in a flawless fashion.
The group was nominated for a Polaris Music Prize in 2017. They will continue their tour in Los Angeles on February 19.
This piece was edited by Luke Elisio