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A Tribe Called Red Breaks Down Its 'Powwow-Step' Style

A Tribe Called Red's latest album is <em>We Are the Halluci Nation</em>.
Courtesy of the artist
A Tribe Called Red's latest album is We Are the Halluci Nation.

A Tribe Called Red is a group of three indigenous DJs from Canada: Bear Witness, 2oolman and DJ NDN. The trio has produced three full-length albums now, and its latest is called We Are the Halluci Nation.

The group's signature "powwow-step" style, which mixes electronic dance music and traditional tribal music, has drawn a lot of attention. In 2014 it won a Juno, Canada's highest music honor, for Breakthrough Group of the Year, making it the first indigenous artist to win in a non-indigenous category.

Long before the group officially formed in 2008, Bear Witness and DJ NDN decided to throw a party that was geared toward the indigenous community in Ottawa. Under the banner "Electric Pow Wow," they mixed dubstep and hip-hop music, dropped in some traditional powwow samples, and boom — it worked.

"What we've ended up with is a very inclusive party that everybody showed up to," says Bear Witness. "To have this reaction from non-indigenous people as well, you know, this overwhelming reaction from people outside of the community, was very unexpected."

Bear Witness says that the group's indigenous fans were looking for music like theirs. "In the early days," he says, "when it was still mostly within the indigenous community, one of the things that fans came up and said quite a bit — and something we still hear to this day — is, 'I've been thinking about his for a long time.' It was something that people from our community wanted to happen and wanted to see and were looking for."

We Are the Halluci Nation is out now. Hear more from A Tribe Called Red at the audio link.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff