Preview: A Tribe Called Red @ Eiteljorg


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This Friday the Eiteljorg Museum is hosting what is sure to be an unforgettable explosion of culture, music and art.  The Contemporary Arts Party will kick off the museum’s new exhibit, RED: The Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. The party will include performances by DJ Kyle Long, DJ Little Town, Know No Stranger, sketch comedy group The 1491’s, Big Car and most notably, A Tribe Called Red.

This Canadian trio — Bear Witness, Dee Jay NDN and two-time Canadian turntable battle champion DJ Shub — specializes in an unparaalleled hybrid of electronic music of many flavors, Pow Wow Music, traditional drumming and singing of various First Nation/”Native American” (as Americans know it, but that term is not actually acceptable. When “Columbus” or whoever discovered “america”, the :natives were already here, and since this place was neither India or the Indies–which would make them “Indians,” nor were they “American:, since there was no “America: yet, let’s just call them Natives or aboriginals.

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The group’s name gives a nod to intellectual hip hop pioneers, A Tribe Called Quest. The “Red” represents indigenous people on the traditional medicine wheel. The group began when DJ NDN and Bear Witness were DJ-ing at the same club around 5 or 6 years ago.  NDN used a loop from a Pow Wow song, Bear Witness put a beat under it and that’s when the magic began.  Add in turntable battle champion DJ Shub, and the result is a unique, massively powerful sound that is unmatched by anything you’ve ever heard.

A Tribe Called Red’s music is both hypnotic and infectious, blending traditional Pow Wow samples with moombahton, trap, electro and dubstep.  They have released EP’s, full length albums, toured the world, and run a sold-out monthly party called Electric Pow Wow in their home town, Ottawa Canada.

Their music is heavily rooted in indigenous politics and this becomes clear in videos Bear Witness produces and projects at some of the live shows. ATCR uses their music to advocate for indigenous peoples’ rights, and even uses samples from defamatory native film portrayals.  Far more than “just a band,” ATCR participates in social commentary and are adamant about correcting stereotypes and negative misrepresentations of Native/FN people.  The most appropriate quote I could find to describe A Tribe Called Red said, “A Tribe Called Red are more than just a music act; they are an audio-visual, cultural phenomenon.”

No group can claim to even come close to what A Tribe Called Red is doing, and has done. To put it best, they “revamped and honored their culture, contemporized an often forgotten and forsaken segment of society and catapulted their concern and care for their people into the mainstream.”

I was lucky enough to talk to DJ Kyle Long, another performer for Friday night’s event and ATCR fan, about his feelings on the group, their music and the event.

AF: When did you first hear ATCR/what was the first track of theirs you heard and what was your reaction to it?  Do you have a favorite?

KL: I first heard of the group around 2010 on a Canadian electronic music blog I used to follow called Masala. The Masala site was created by a bunch of DJs based in Montreal and they were really at the forefront of exposing North American audiences to emerging global electronic music scenes in places like Angola or Argentina.

I vividly remember reading on Masala about this group of First Nation/Native American guys who were mixing their traditional music with dubstep. I was immediately intrigued by the concept and when I listened to the tunes I was seriously impressed with how well they executed the idea. I thought the music was just really visceral and powerful, mixing these intense Native vocal samples with super-heavy bass sounds. It was a wild combination that really worked.

I really like the track “Red Skin Girl,” which samples a traditional recording by the Northern Cree singers. I love the track they did with Das Racist “Indian From All Directions.” I also dig their moombahton stuff, which sort of veers away from the Native American based work. They did a killer moombah remix of Caetano Veloso’s Tropicalia anthem; I spin that remix often in my DJ sets.

AF:  Have you ever seen one of their live shows?

KL:  Yes, I played with the group in Indianapolis in November of 2011, which was also for the opening of the Eiteljorg’s Native American Contemporary Arts Fellowship. The museum initially contacted me to spin at that event with a couple other locally based DJs including Jackola. But immediately after they contacted me I started literally begging them to bring A Tribe Called Red in to perform. I’d actually approached the group much earlier about performing here and was already in conversation with their management. Everything just sort of magically aligned to make it happen.

At first I think the museum was a bit skeptical of the idea. Which I understood, as it’s considerably more expensive to fly a 3 piece group in from Canada, as opposed to using local talent. But when they heard the music and watched the videos, they quickly realized how perfect they were for the event.

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DJ Kyle Long (Left) with A Tribe Called Red

AF:  If you had to give people a description or preview of what they might expect to see/hear at an A Tribe Called Red show, what would you tell them?  

KL:  If you were at the first show the group did here, you only experienced one element of their live presentation. This time the Tribe will be bringing their complete visual presentation, which includes a traditional Native American hoop dancer and an extensive video presentation that features stereotypical images of Native Americans edited by the Tribe in a psychedelic fashion.

Musically, I think A Tribe Called Red have one of the best live presentations of any electronic music act I’ve ever seen. That’s partly due to the amazing turntablism skills of DJ Shub, who has won some prestigious DMC turntable battles.

Their live show is just an all-around assault on your senses. Musically they hit audiences with this incredible, rapid fire blast of musical ideas – obviously the traditional native sounds are an integral, recurring component in the sound, but you’ll hear the entire spectrum of modern electronic music  represented in an extremely unique and creative style.
AF:  What inspires you/impresses you about their music?

KL:  Beyond the music itself, I just love the concept of A Tribe Called Red and the questions and ideas the group puts in front of audiences. We live in a culture where it’s still socially acceptable to portray Native American culture in demeaning, stereotypical ways and I believe that needs to change immediately.

Native American and First Nation people are rarely in control of how they are portrayed in popular culture. I love how A Tribe Called Red are aggressively reversing that unfortunate trend and creating this confrontational music that challenges listeners to rethink all these tired stereotypes of Native People.

I’m really attracted towards music movements that are built around empowerment – whether that’s Rastafarian roots reggae, Riot Girl punk rock, or Fela Kuti style afrobeat. I just naturally gravitate towards those sorts of things, and I think A Tribe Called Red have created an important, necessary musical movement for their culture. I love artists who mix volatile music with volatile idea – like MIA, The Clash or Public Enemy. For me A Tribe Called Red fall right in line with that tradition.

AF:  Besides your own performance and seeing A Tribe Called Red again, what else can we look forward to about this party?

KL:  I’m really excited that DJ Little Town aka Jessica Hemesath will also be spinning at this event. Little Town is an emerging new artist in the Indianapolis electronic music scene. She very recently turned 21, so she’s just now getting the opportunity to get out and spin in clubs. There are some areas where my sound and Little Town’s overlap; Jessica’s has some Brazilian influence from her family and you’ll hear her dropping some classic Baile Funk cuts in her mixes. That’s really cool for me, as what I do is pretty far removed from what most of the other DJs in the scene here are doing – so I’m really stoked to see Little Town on the bill with A Tribe Called Red and myself.

This event is sure to be an unforgettable experience and we hope to see you all there!

Download their self-titled debut album here for FREE!

You can also find A Tribe Called Red on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, and their website.

Don’t forget to check out DJ Kyle Long/Cultural Cannibals on Soundcloud and their website.

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Me with Deejay NDN at Eiteljorg Museum @ RED

 

More Info:  Eiteljorg press release

EITELJORG TO AWARD $25,000, EXHIBIT TO FIVE CONTEMPORARY NATIVE ARTISTS
Special show, opening Nov. 9, defies stereotypes about Native art

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Imagine walking into an American Indian museum and seeing a totem pole sawed into pieces and scattered across the floor. That kind of statement-making Native artwork –  that clashes with tradition and confronts stereotypes – will be on display beginning Saturday, Nov. 9 2013, when the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western art opens RED: The Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship.

RED will feature five Fellows whose paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and installation art exemplify the highest standards of artistic excellence in the field of contemporary art.

Invited Artist, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (Coast Salish/Okanagan) is a Canadian painter known for his large-scale works that encompass political and social issues.

The work of Minneapolis-based mixed media artist, Julie Buffalohead (Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma) challenges commonly held social conventions in the theater of the backyard, bathroom and ambiguous landscape  where animals play dress up, attend tea parties, and go diving in baby pools. Buffalohead’s narratives at first look are charming only to find she turns the world upside down.

Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Aleut) is a Sitka, Alaska-based concept-driven artist who uses indigenous technologies and global materials when exploring his unpredictable installation ideas. In his large-scale work, I Think it Goes Like This?, Galanin takes a traditional-looking totem pole and deconstructs it to create a puzzle-like installation.

 Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band of Cherokee) uses traditional Cherokee basketry to bring awareness to contemporary Native issues. She builds her baskets out of paper on which she’s printed the text of treaties between Cherokee people and the U.S, maps that mark out land once owned by the Cherokee and even lists of athletic teams that use Indian names.

Meryl McMaster (Plains Cree/Blackfoot) is a young artist from Ottawa, Ontario, whose photography shows a maturity in its reinterpretation of the idea of portraiture. She combines exploration of race and social issues into her unique photography using sculpture and installation.

Eiteljorg Fellows receive a $25,000 unrestricted grant, are featured in a catalog and exhibition and the museum purchases works of art for the permanent contemporary collection. More than 100 works from this year’s Fellowship class will be on exhibit until Feb. 2, 2014.

“These artists represent unique cultural and personal backgrounds, and their artwork reflects the diversity of Native artists in North America,” said Eiteljorg contemporary art curator Jennifer Complo-McNutt.  “As an exhibition, RED is a platform for exploring the work of artists who take pride in their cultures and express strength in the knowledge that has been passed down from their ancestors.”

To date, the Eiteljorg Fellowship has honored 40 contemporary Native artists, totaling nearly $1,125,000 in cash awards and purchases for the permanent collection.

OPENING WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Friday, Nov. 8

5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Celebration

Awards reception honoring 2013 Fellows

Friday, Nov. 8
8 p.m. – Midnight

Contemporary Arts Party!

Event features DJ crew A Tribe Called Red and sketch comedy group the 1491s

Saturday, Nov. 9
10 a.m. – Noon

2013 Fellows Gallery Talks

Tour the special exhibit gallery with the new Fellowship class

Saturday, Nov. 9
1p.m. – 3p.m.
New Native Speak: the 1491s
present Social Smallpox
Native American comedy sketch group performs at the Eiteljorg. They are known for bringing Native awareness and humor to a wide, mainstream audience.

About the Eiteljorg Museum

The Eiteljorg Museum seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America. The museum is located in Downtown Indianapolis’ White River State Park, at 500 West Washington, Indianapolis, IN 46204. For general information about the museum and to learn more about exhibits and events, call (317) 636-WEST (9378) or visit www.eiteljorg.org.