AGO: A Tribe Called Red: Power to Change the Political Landscape

by Franke James

Location: AGO 1st Thursday, Feb.7/13

I kept thinking: Does Stephen Harper have any idea the power that A Tribe Called Red is unleashing?

What was extraordinary was that this wasn’t a political event. It was the Art Gallery of Ontario, where a large crowd had gathered to hear A Tribe Called Red (ATCR) play their unique blend of Aboriginal “Pow Wow” music and contemporary club music. ATCR is bridging a chasm. Everyone — aboriginal, non-aboriginal, young, old — was going wild to this indigenous music that sounds so fresh and so cool. Canadians of all shapes and sizes were on their feet dancing, shouting, jumping…

ATCR is part of a wave of new Indigenous Music that is making Aboriginal culture very cool.

My strong sense that evening was that this will change the political conversation in Canada because it changes the public perception — the identity of Indigenous people has now morphed into cool, powerful, potent.

Maybe if you turn up the volume really, really loud so your room vibrates and pulses you’ll get an idea of what it was like to be in the crowd listening to them. Watching the video above — which Billiam James and I shot with camera phones — you can’t tell the reaction of the audience to the music. And the Walker Court was way too dark to film the crowd. But they were going ‘bonkers’ over the music.

Bear Witness, Ian (DJ NDN) Campeau, Dan (DJ Shub) General are the three DJ’s that make up A Tribe called Red. Behind the band were huge screens playing videos of collaged images — a clever (and sexy!) mashup of Aboriginal art and old Hollywood cliches — juiced up with an electric dose of Andy Warhol colour. The combination was brilliant: a fearsome and passionate mix that got the crowd jumping and jiving and loving ATCR. It was a non-political event that night and yet — make no mistake — it’s a powerful drumbeat to energize the Idle No More movement.

Want to find out more? Listen to an interview on CBC’s The Current, Idle No More: Does Every Revolution have a Soundtrack?

Watch the interview with A Tribe Called Red:

Big thanks to OCAD University’s grad students in Criticism & Curatorial Practice who curated the AGO event.

57 Responses: One Comment and 56 Tweets

  • Brian Seaman says:

    This is powerful and stirring. And you are right, I couldn’t help but play it loud and dance. However we non-Aboriginal Canadians who are moved to dance to this, and who have danced the traditional round dance with the FN peoples in our communities, need to also take our political stand with them. The rights of Aboriginals and Canadian sovereignty has been seriously compromised by the current federal government, through its Omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 and with the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Do not rely on corporately owned media to provide you with accurate information about this and the Idle No More movement in general. Even the highly loathed, in conservative circles, CBC has done a poor job at keeping us informed. Do your own reading. Talk to Aboriginal scholars, colleagues and lawyers you know. Contact people like me with questions. I am a human rights/civil liberties researcher at the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre. You owe it to yourselves as Canadians. And the children who will be around in 30-40 years, think of them. We owe it to them.

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