Part of a new generation of technology-literate First Nations artists, A Tribe Called Red mixes traditional powwow music with contemporary club sounds.
The Ottawa-based group got its start at the city's Electric PowWow in 2008, when DJ NDN (the performance name of Ian Campeau) and Bear Witness met DJ Shub (Dan General) and they decided to collaborate.
Electric PowWow was born when Campeau noticed there were dance nights in Ottawa for every culture except his own.
"So I had the idea, like 'Why isn't there one for First Nations yet?' And growing up in the community, we just decided to throw a party [and] hopefully it might get people to come out to our regular night," he recalled to CBC News.
The trio quickly garnered a local following — not just urban First Nations teens, but also dubstep fans drawn to the group's eclectic mix of beats.
A Tribe Called Red released its debut album for free online, which gained the trio converts across Canada. They’ve since played to packed rooms in New York and at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario.
Now, with the group's album Nation ll Nation, the members are putting their own take on the music of young native drum groups. It’s a collaboration with aboriginal-owned Tribal Spirit Music and Pirates Blend, a label associated with rock-reggae act Bedouin Soundclash.
The members of A Tribe Called Red talked to CBC’s Eli Glasner about their unique sound and why an electronic beat goes hand in hand with political movements such as Idle No More.
"All those things that we're trying to talk about with Idle No More, with aboriginal rights, you're feeling it. You're getting it without a word having to be said, because when you feel that, you're feeling what we all feel," says Bear Witness.
The troupe tours the U.S. this spring along with dates in the U.K. and Germany. Beginning in June, a Canadian tour in support of Nation ll Nation returns A Tribe Called Red to Ottawa's Electric PowWow, as well as making stops in Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto, St. John’s, Antigonish, N.S. and Squamish and Robson, B.C.