A Tribe Called Red
A Tribe Called Red
The group in 2018, performing at the Commodore in Vancouver, Canada
|Origin||Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Dance, First Nations music, ethnotronica|
|Members||Tim "2oolman" Hill|
Ehren "Bear Witness" Thomas
|Past members||Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau|
Dan "DJ Shub" General
A Tribe Called Red (often abbreviated as ATCR) is a Canadian electronic music group, who blend instrumental hip hop, reggae, moombahton and dubstep-influenced dance music with elements of First Nations music, particularly vocal chanting and drumming. Based in Ottawa, Ontario, the group consists of Tim "2oolman" Hill (Mohawk, of the Six Nations of the Grand River), and Ehren "Bear Witness" Thomas (of the Cayuga First Nation). Former members include co-founder DJ Jon Deck and Dan "DJ Shub" General (of the Cayuga First Nation), who left the band for personal reasons in spring 2014, and was replaced by Hill. Co-founder Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau (of the Nipissing First Nation) left the band for health reasons in October 2017, with the band opting to remain a duo for the time being.
The group's music has been described as "powwow-step", a style of contemporary powwow music for urban First Nations in the dance club scene; popularized by the media as a description of the band's unique style, the term originated as the title of one of the band's own earliest singles.
Bear Witness explained that the group A Tribe Called Red was formed because its members wanted to throw parties for their community, and he also pointed out ATCR's political connotation - "To take over and Indigenize the club space is a really political act [...] As First Nations people everything we do is political" (Ehren "Bear Witness" Thomas).
After releasing a number of tracks online DJing at various dance and aboriginal events, the band released their self-titled debut album as a free internet download in 2012. The album was named as a longlisted nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize on June 14, 2012. In December of 2012, ATCR released "The Road" on Soundcloud (P.27), a track whose quick fame garnered "upward of 50,000 plays within five months" and nearly 300,000 plays as of August 2018. The song's structure revolves around a series of "drops", an important component in electronic dance music derived from Jamaican sound systems as well as syncopated "trap beats" originating from dirty south hip-hop characterised with a booming bass drum and skittering hi-hats. At the time, ATCR "was working on its second record—what would become 2013's Nation II Nation" and has since, for years now, been perceived as one the leaders of an artistic Indigenous resurgence, exemplifying the remixing of tradition, bridging Indigenous history and futurity.
Their second album, Nation II Nation, was released in 2013 and was named a longlisted nominee for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize on June 13, 2013; in July, it was named to the prize's final 10-album shortlist. The band also won several awards at the 2013 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, including Best Group and Best Album or Nation II Nation.
In 2014, they garnered two Juno Award nominations at the Juno Awards of 2014, for Breakthrough Group of the Year and Electronic Album of the Year, winning the award for Breakthrough Group. The band specifically chose not to submit themselves for consideration in the Aboriginal Album of the Year category.
A Tribe Called Red have also collaborated on and produced one of the last known Das Racist songs, called "Indians From All Directions", as well as the song "A Tribe Called Red" on Angel Haze's album Dirty Gold.
The band was featured prominently in the 2017 music documentary When They Awake, by filmmakers P.J. Marcellino and Hermon Farahi. The film was the opening night gala selection at the 2017 Calgary International Film Festival.
The band found its roots when Bear Witness and Ian Campeau realized their home city of Ottawa had dance nights that represented every culture there but their own, so deciding to, "throw a party," was more than just for fun—these Electric Pow Wows were to portray their Aboriginal culture within urban centres where historically, its involvement has been erased. Thus, the band has been involved in activism from its very origin.
They have been vocal supporters of Idle No More, a peaceful revolution launched in November 2012 to protest the Harper government's introduction of Bill C-45, which critics, including many First Nations people, claimed threatened both the environment and Aboriginal sovereignty.
In 2013, they issued a public statement asking non-aboriginal fans to refrain from cultural appropriation by not wearing headdresses and war paint to their shows. Furthermore, Campeau filed a human rights complaint against an amateur football club in Ottawa that was using "Redskins" as its club name. Also, through its piece "The Road", the band provided "catalyzing soundtrack to the Idle No More movement sweeping across Turtle Island", advocating in favor of "Indigenous peoples reclaiming the land, moving to reverse the ongoing dispossessions of the settler state". The track has made some recall a series of walks along roads, like the "Longest Walk" from Alcatraz to Washington in 1978.
In 2014, the band withdrew from a scheduled performance at the official opening ceremonies of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, citing concerns about the museum's depiction of indigenous human rights issues.
Further than distinct actions like the aforementioned, the group is also activist through the expression of their music itself. "I think in our own community," Bear Witness told The National in 2013, "it's not something that people would have been ready for us to have been doing 10 or 15 years ago, to be sampling powwow music and bring it into clubs. I mean, that's really pushing boundaries." Using music as a platform to educate, they have broken away from homogenous genres and at once promoted appreciation and respect for First Nations cultures while combating stereotypes and appropriation.
"It's mind-blowing that this whole conversation that we've been having the past few decades about the portrayal of our people hasn't gone anywhere," said Bear Witness. "It hasn't changed."  However, the band is positive about making a change moving forward. "All those things that we're trying to talk about with Idle No More, with aboriginal rights, you're feeling it and you're getting it without a word having to be said. Because when you feel that, you're feeling what we all feel."
A Tribe Called Red (2012)
This first album by ATCR was nominated for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize and it was in The Washington Post's Top 10 albums of the year. After their debut, the ATCR went on tour across North America and Europe, where they participated to the World Music Expo in Greece.
Nation II Nation (2013)
ATCR's second album was nominated for a Polaris Prize and it also had a political inclination as it contributed to the conversation that revolves around Indigenous rights and cultural appropriation. The name of the album has two layers of meaning. On one hand, the members of the group are originally from different communities, as Campeau explained: "I'm Ojibway, Anishinaabe. The other two guys, Dan and Bear are both Cayuga [...] Historically, we're enemies. So together, in forming this group, that's a nation-to-nation relationship"(Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau). On the other hand, there is a "nation-to-nation relationship from the settler nations to the First Nations" (Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau).
We Are the Halluci Nation (2016)
The third album of A Tribe Called Red was released in September 2016. The first voice that is heard in this album is that of John Trudell, a Native American activist, poet and musician. In fact, with this work the ATCR wanted to celebrate contemporary Indigenous culture.
- A Tribe Called Red (2012)
- Nation II Nation (2013)
- We Are the Halluci Nation (2016)
- Moombah Hip Moombah Hop (2011)
- Trapline (2013)
- Suplex (2015)
- Stadium Pow Wow (2016)
Awards and nominations
|2014||Juno Awards||Breakthrough Group of the Year||A Tribe Called Red||Won|||
|Electronic Album of the Year||Nation II Nation||Nominated|
|2017||Canadian Independent Music Awards||Album of the Year||We Are The Halluci Nation||Won|||
|Group of the Year||A Tribe Called Red||Nominated|
|iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards||Video of the Year||"R.E.D." (ft. Yasiin Bey, Narcy & Black Bear)||Won|||
|Fan Fave Video||Nominated|
|Best EDM/Dance Video||"Stadium Pow Wow" (ft. Black Bear)||Nominated|
|Juno Awards||Video of the Year||"R.E.D." (ft. Yasiin Bey, Narcy & Black Bear)||Nominated|||
|Electronic Album of the Year||We Are the Halluci Nation||Nominated|
|2018||Juno Awards||Group of the Year||A Tribe Called Red||Won|||
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