Back home in Canada, A Tribe Called Red just took home a Juno Award for Best Breakthrough Group. It’s the first time an indigenous act has won an award outside of the Aboriginal Music category. (And in a land traditionally hostile to anything that’s not guitar music, it’s the first time a non-rock entity has won in the Breakthrough category since the Parachute Club in 1984). The win was partially orchestrated by the Ottawa, Ontario-based DJ trio themselves: they didn’t even submit for the Aboriginal Music category to avoid being marginalized.
A Tribe Called Red was borne out of a long-running party series called Electric Powwow, but myth-busting is central to its musical mandate. The video for “Sisters,” from the 2013 album Nation II Nation, links these political sympathies with a more universal theme; getting ready for the rave (while flying a Mohawk Warrior Flag). There are no feathered or face painted partiers here either, perhaps a visual cue to clueless partiers still showing up to A Tribe Called Red concerts in ‘redface.’ In a culture that perpetuates a monolithic and narrow view of native peoples – and has little patience for thoughtful popular music – A Tribe Called Red’s explicitly global, on-trend dance music is working to shift the paradigm of indigenous experience from rural reservations into contemporary cities… and its dancefloors.
Watch A Tribe Caled Red’s video for “Sisters” above and read the group’s inspiration for the song below:
“For the Sisters video, we wanted to show that Native Americans are like everyone else, regular contemporary people who are connected, fashion conscious and going to the club on weekends. Starring Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, Sisters shows three aboriginal girlfriends going on a road trip to our monthly party Electric Pow Wow in Ottawa, one of the only all indigenous parties in North America. We wanted the simplicity of the story to enhance this message and shines a light on this all-Native crew. The song is taken from our latest album Nation II Nation and exclusively uses the female vocals of PowWow group Northern Voice. This is also groundbreaking as female PowWow backvocals haven’t been put at the forefront like this ever before.”