A Tribe Called Red

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A Tribe Called Red
A Tribe Called Red Live In Vancouver, 2018.jpg
The group in 2018, performing at the Commodore in Vancouver, Canada
Background information
OriginOttawa, Ontario, Canada
GenresDance, First Nations music, ethnotronica
Years active2007 (2007)–present
MembersTim "2oolman" Hill
Ehren "Bear Witness" Thomas
Past membersIan "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.[1] 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).[2] Former members include co-founder DJ Jon Deck and Dan "DJ Shub" General (of the Cayuga First Nation),[3] who left the band for personal reasons in spring 2014, and was replaced by Hill.[4] 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.[5]

The group's name is an homage to A Tribe Called Quest, a hip hop group that also had songs that addressed African American social grievances.[6]

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.[1]


Bear Witness explained that the group A Tribe Called Red was formed because its members wanted to throw parties for their community,[7] 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).[7]


After releasing a number of tracks online DJing at various dance and aboriginal events,[8] the band released their self-titled debut album as a free internet download in 2012.[9][10] The album was named as a longlisted nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize on June 14, 2012.[11] 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"[3] and nearly 300,000 plays as of August 2018.[12] The song's structure revolves around a series of "drops", an important component in electronic dance music derived from Jamaican sound systems[3] as well as syncopated "trap beats" originating from dirty south hip-hop characterised with a booming bass drum and skittering hi-hats.[3] At the time, ATCR "was working on its second record—what would become 2013's Nation II Nation"[3] and has since, for years now, been perceived as one the leaders of an artistic Indigenous resurgence, exemplifying the remixing of tradition,[13] 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;[14] in July, it was named to the prize's final 10-album shortlist.[15] The band also won several awards at the 2013 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, including Best Group and Best Album or Nation II Nation.[16]

The band has toured extensively across Canada[17] and the United States,[18] as well as performing festival dates in the United Kingdom,[19] Germany[19] and Greece.[20]

They have been featured on CBC Radio's Q[21] and Canada Live,[22] and have been playlisted on both CBC Radio 2 and CBC Radio 3 as well as BBC Radio 6 Music.

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,[23] winning the award for Breakthrough Group. The band specifically chose not to submit themselves for consideration in the Aboriginal Album of the Year category.[4]

A Tribe Called Red have also collaborated on and produced one of the last known Das Racist songs, called "Indians From All Directions",[24] as well as the song "A Tribe Called Red" on Angel Haze's album Dirty Gold.[25]

In 2014, they released "Burn Your Village to the Ground", a non-album protest song about the complicated aboriginal relationship with the colonialist connotations of Thanksgiving.[26]

In 2015, they released a pro-wrestling themed EP Suplex, with appearances from Smalltown DJs, as well as a remix of Buffy Sainte-Marie's song "Working for the Government".[27]

In 2016, they released LP We Are the Halluci Nation in September.[28] Guest collaborators on the album included Narcy, Yasiin Bey, Lido Pimienta, Shad, Tanya Tagaq, Joseph Boyden and Black Bear.

The group won the Jack Richardson Producer of the Year Award at the Juno Awards of 2017.[29]

The band was featured prominently in the 2017 music documentary When They Awake, by filmmakers P.J. Marcellino and Hermon Farahi.[30] The film was the opening night gala selection at the 2017 Calgary International Film Festival.[31]

The group won the Group of the Year award at the Juno Awards of 2018.


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.[32] Thus, the band has been involved in activism from its very origin.

They have been vocal supporters of Idle No More,[8] 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.[33]

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",[34] advocating in favor of "Indigenous peoples reclaiming the land, moving to reverse the ongoing dispossessions of the settler state".[3] The track has made some recall a series of walks along roads, like the "Longest Walk" from Alcatraz to Washington in 1978.[3]

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."[35] 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." [36] 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."[36]


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.[37] After their debut, the ATCR went on tour across North America and Europe, where they participated to the World Music Expo in Greece.[37]

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.[7] 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).[7] On the other hand, there is a "nation-to-nation relationship from the settler nations to the First Nations" (Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau).[7]

We Are the Halluci Nation (2016)

The third album of A Tribe Called Red was released in September 2016.[38] The first voice that is heard in this album is that of John Trudell, a Native American activist, poet and musician.[39] In fact, with this work the ATCR wanted to celebrate contemporary Indigenous culture.[40]




  • Moombah Hip Moombah Hop (2011)
  • Trapline (2013)
  • Suplex (2015)
  • Stadium Pow Wow (2016)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee/Work Result Ref
2014 Juno Awards Breakthrough Group of the Year A Tribe Called Red Won [41]
Electronic Album of the Year Nation II Nation Nominated
2017 Canadian Independent Music Awards Album of the Year We Are The Halluci Nation Won [42]
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 [43]
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 [44]
Electronic Album of the Year We Are the Halluci Nation Nominated
2018 Juno Awards Group of the Year A Tribe Called Red Won [45]


  1. ^ a b "A Tribe Called Red’s urban powwow" Archived January 29, 2013, at Archive.today. National Post, August 23, 2011.
  2. ^ "Bio of A Tribe Called Red".
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Levine, Gabriel (2016). "Remixing Return: A Tribe Called Red's Decolonial Bounce". Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies: 28.
  4. ^ a b "A Tribe Called Red, Wab Kinew, Tanya Tagaq on the indigenous music renaissance" Archived 2016-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. CBC Music, August 18, 2014.
  5. ^ "Ian Campeau, a.k.a. Deejay NDN, leaves A Tribe Called Red". cbc.ca. Oct 18, 2017.
  6. ^ Bush, John. "A Tribe Called Quest". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Beats Against Colonialism: A Tribe Called Red – Canadian Dimension". canadiandimension.com. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  8. ^ a b "A Tribe Called Red". NOW, February 7, 2013.
  9. ^ "25 best Canadian debut albums ever". CBC Music, June 16, 2017.
  10. ^ "Download A Tribe Called Red's Debut Album for Free". Indian Country Today, March 29, 2012.
  11. ^ "Polaris Prize long list includes lots of Toronto bands". Toronto Star, June 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "The Road, A Tribe Called Red". Soundcloud.
  13. ^ Levine, Gabriel (2016). "Remixing Return: A Tribe Called Red's Decolonial Bounce". Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies: 29–30.
  14. ^ "Polaris Music Prize Unveils 2013 Long List" Archived 2013-06-18 at the Wayback Machine. Exclaim!, June 13, 2012.
  15. ^ "Polaris Prize shortlists Tegan and Sara, A Tribe Called Red". CBC News, July 16, 2013.
  16. ^ "A Tribe Called Red, George Leach and Nathan Cunningham big winners at Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards" Archived 2016-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. CBC Music, August 19, 2013.
  17. ^ "A Tribe Called Red Book Canada-Heavy North American Winter Tour". Exclaim!, November 18, 2013.
  18. ^ "A Tribe Called Red touring in support of second album" Archived February 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Aboriginal Music Week, April 9, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "A Tribe Called Red's dubstep take on powwow music". CBC News, April 18, 2013.
  20. ^ "Dancing to a tribal rhythm". Times Colonist, November 10, 2012.
  21. ^ "Pow wow-step with A Tribe Called Red". Q, June 20, 2013.
  22. ^ "National Aboriginal Day". Canada Live, June 20, 2012.
  23. ^ "A Tribe Called Red, Monkeyjunk among Ottawa Juno nominees". CBC News, February 4, 2014.
  24. ^ Listen to an Unreleased Das Racist Track, "Indians From All Directions". Pitchfork, April 16, 2013.
  25. ^ "A Tribe Called Red team with Angel Haze for 'A Tribe Called Red'". CBC Music, July 19, 2013.
  26. ^ "Listen to this: A Tribe Called Red's powerful new single, 'Burn Your Village to the Ground'" Archived 2016-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. CBC Music, November 28, 2014.
  27. ^ "Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Working for the Government" (A Tribe Called Red remix)". Exclaim!, July 2, 2015.
  28. ^ "Tribe Called Red launches 'lightning rod' album We Are the Halluci Nation". Postmedia News. September 16, 2016. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  29. ^ Lynn Saxberg and Peter Hum, "Gord Downie wins three Junos at music awards gala dinner Saturday night". London Free Press, April 1, 2017
  30. ^ "Musicians". WHEN THEY AWAKE!.
  31. ^ "Full list of Calgary Film Festival movies announced - Metro Calgary". metronews.ca.
  32. ^ "A look at A Tribe Called Red, a successful group of aboriginal DJs". The National - CBC Toronto. July 21, 2013.
  33. ^ Marshall, Tabitha. "Idle No More". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  34. ^ Levine, Gabriel (2016). "Remixing Return: A Tribe Called Red's Decolonial Bounce". Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies: 27.
  35. ^ "A look at A Tribe Called Red, a successful group of aboriginal DJs". The National - CBC Television Toronto.
  36. ^ a b "A Tribe Called Red reclaim their culture: Polaris-prize nominee using popularity to educate audiences about First Nations". The Globe and Mail, Toronto.
  37. ^ a b "A Tribe Called Red create Electric Pow Wow genre Le groupe A Tribe Called Red crée le style électro pow wow - SOCAN Words and Music". SOCAN Words and Music. 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  38. ^ "PIRATES BLEND - A Tribe Called Red - We Are The Halluci Nation". PIRATES BLEND - A Tribe Called Red - We Are The Halluci Nation. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  39. ^ "Press Kit - A Tribe Called Red". A Tribe Called Red. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  40. ^ Lindsay, Cam (2016-11-30). "5 albums that influenced A Tribe Called Red's We Are The Halluci Nation". NOW Magazine. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  41. ^ "2014 nominees" (PDF). junoawards.ca. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  42. ^ "Home - Jim Beam INDIES with INDIE88". Jim Beam INDIES with INDIE88. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  43. ^ "iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards 2017 winners list". Global News. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  44. ^ Mahjouri, Shakiel (2 April 2017). "Canada's 2017 Juno Awards Winners Revealed!". ET Canada. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  45. ^ "2018 GROUP OF THE YEAR | A Tribe Called Red | The JUNO Awards". The JUNO Awards. Retrieved 2018-05-30.

External links[edit]