How do you define good music?
Is it a positive message, touching lyrics, feeling connected or the way it makes you move? For me, it is a combination of these elements. Mental. Emotional. Spiritual. Physical. These also happen to be the Four Directions teachings of the First Nations people. So naturally, when A Tribe Called Red took to the floor of the ARC on Wednesday March 19th for Aboriginal Awareness Week, they knew just how to engage in every aspect, and the results were powerful.
A Tribe Called Red is a three-man aboriginal DJ group that started up in Ottawa six years ago. In their mixes, popular hip-hop, soca, and EDM beats meet the powerful drums and vocals of traditional indigenous music, creating a genre all its own – Pow Wow Step. Their music has since gained international recognition through tours across North America, the UK, and in parts of Europe. DJs Bear Witness, NDN and Shub, whom comprise the group have continued to further their names in the music industry with recent nominations at our very own Canadian Juno Awards in the categories: Breakthrough Group of the Year and Electronic Group of the Year for the album Nation II Nation.
The Queen’s Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre wrangled up the band to perform here on campus in the dead centre of the weeklong festivities. The concert brought out a significant crowd spanning across generations and cultures. An opening address courtesy of the younger fans from a local elementary-school class started off the night. The next guests shared a dance in traditional dress to the drums of Royal Military College’s Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year (ALOY) group. After warming up the floor, crowds of Queen’s students and Kingston community members alike filed down to the stage where the main act was spinning. We moshed like Eng Froshlings till the show was over, after an encore or two of course.
Hearing A Tribe Called Red’s music is one thing but being engulfed by the energy between the band and the crowd was an enlightening experience at another level. No matter what kind of music you are into, I think there is something to be gained from engaging with this emerging genre. From a mental perspective, the dialogue samples used in the tracks are a perfect example of accessible activism. They convey strong messages to bring consciousness to indigenous rights, ongoing issues and allow youth to reclaim and celebrate their culture. The emotions sparked by their songs range from turnt up and rowdy to tuned in and reflective. The spiritual reach of this music, I’ll leave up to individual interpretation but physically, who could hear this and not want to bust a move?