Our Mix Monday sessions celebrate global pioneers creating unique material in and out of Red Bull Studios London. Over the past year we‘ve hosted mixes for jazz heavy drum and bass producer Makoto, crunked out Philly G Starkey, juke masher Nightwave and homegrown soulful selector Moxie. This week we continue in the same ilk with Canadian trio A Tribe Called Red. As well as being three of the coolest down to earth guys we’ve had the pleasure of meeting, they’re a group who are taking control and putting the community back into electronic dance music in Ottawa.
A Tribe Called Red's Electric Pow Wow night is at the heart of their operation and provides the perfect platform to preview their sub genre ‘pow wow step.’ The sound mashes up huge dubstep bass lines with elements of jungle, hip hop, grime and samples from Native American performers. We caught up with Bear Witness, NDN and Shub to find out how their Aboriginal heritage influences beat creation, parties and DJ mixes.
You guys have pioneered the phrase electric pow wow can you break it down for us?
NDN: A pow wow is a cultural celebration in North Americas and it originated on the plains. It’s a cultural celebration that has dancing, singing and food. What we’re doing is trying to create a cultural continuance modernising that idea. We’re creating a space to do that by celebrating music; you’re here to dance, meet new people and old friends. Creating some sort of identity and soundtrack for people caught between two realities. In Canada we have the reservation system, we grew up in the city and we’re urban Aboriginals. So, when you go back home to the reserve you’re known as that ‘city Indian’ and in the city you’re known as that ‘Aboriginal guy’ and we never really had a space. Our Electric Pow Wow night is creating a space in an urban environment that speaks about what we’re about.
How did the Electric Pow Wow night come about?
Bear Witness: NDN and I came together in late 2007 with the idea to showcase us as Aboriginal DJs. Right away the Electric Pow Wow party that we threw was super packed with Aboriginal people from our city, Ottawa. The reaction from the community is that we’re doing something really important and that we had created a space within the Ottawa club scene for Aboriginal people. We had gone out to show people who we were and then our people were like ‘we need this!’
Tracks like ‘Native Puppy Love’ and ‘General Generations’ feature Aboriginal samples, how do you source them?
NDN: The whole pow wow culture is still super vibrant and there’s a record label we’re connected with called Tribal Spirit. They opened up their catalogue to us and it’s all done on a handshake that is such a cool organic thing. In return we make remixes for their albums.
Bear Witness: It’s also a really interesting way of cross promoting. When our remixes go on the albums those albums are being sold on the pow wow trail across the country. Those people at the pow wows are going to start hearing more Tribe Called Red and we’re listing all the drum groups on our album.
You guys pool your collective musical influences to make songs, can you tell us what was on the stereo/record player when you were growing up?
Bear Witness: I grew up in an artist family going to lots of Indigenous peoples and writer conferences. I got exposed to a lot of world music early on. I like to play the ‘first concert’ game with people all the time and I get to trump everybody because on my seventh birthday I got to see Jackson Five reunion tour. My three favourite artists that don’t necessarily reflect what I do as a DJ, but are a huge influence on me, are: Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and Lee Perry.
NDN: My dad was a biker through and through. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, a lot of Beatles and Rolling Stones – All English bands [laughs].
Shub: The first concerts I went to when I was younger were The Doobie Brothers. My dad was the biggest Doobie Brothers fan and he would play The Doobie Brothers morning, noon and night – I’ve seen them four times. My mum is a huge disco head, tonnes of Donna Summer and all kinds of disco music.
So three people behind the decks, how did it go putting together the mix at Red Bull Studios London?
DJ NDN: Typically on the road we only play our own stuff but this let us play stuff we’re really into.
Bear Witness: We had such a fun time today! When we play live we play in a straight line to the audience but today we played facing each other – we were playing for each other having a really fun time! We got lost in it and at one point I looked up and saw a double decker bus go by and I was like: ‘Right! We’re in London!’
A Tribe Called Red - Braves (Remix) (Unreleased)
A Tribe Called Red - Trap Heat (unreleased)
A Tribe Called Red - Intertribal N1 (unreleased)
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Who Gon Stop Me Now (Kito remix) (White label)
Flosstradamus and Sliink – Test Me (UZ remix) (Fool’s Gold)
FKI – On A Roll feat Mike Fresh (prod Mayhem, Spinz, FKI) (Mad Decent)
Dj Chuckle & Silvio Ecomo - Moombah (Afrojack rmx) (Munchi’s shoutout to Nafle VIP) (White Label)
Rick Ross fr Styles P – Blow Money Fast (Maybach Music)
Poirier – Vivendo Juntos (Enchufada)
Chief Keef – Shit I Don’t Like (Willy Joy bootleg remix) (White Label)
Nick Catchdubs – Pop That Party Break (White Label)
A Tribe Called Red - Sound Of Da Trap (Unreleased)
A Tribe Called Red - Native Puppy Love (Javier Estrada remix) (White Label
Flosstradamus – TWARK (White Label)
SL2 - On A Reggae Tip (XL Recordings)
Omni Trio - Renegade Snares (Sabbo remix) (White Label)
Thugli - What Happened (White Label)
Kanye West - Mercy (RL Grime remix) (White Label)
Diplo - Horsey (ATCR remix) (White Label)
ETC!ETC! & Brillz & Diplo – Bueller (Mad Decent)
A Tribe Called Red - ATCR Theme (Unreleased)
Just Kiddin - Return to Tropicana (B-Stee + Archi Bootleg) (White Label)
Melo & Pickster & Sabo - Clap Your Hands (Sol Selectas)
2 Irie - 5 Star Punani (Chong X remix) (White Label)
Popcaan - Party Shots (ETC!ETC! & Major Lazer remix) (White Label)
A Tribe Called Red - Look at This (Unreleased)
Alison Hinds - Roll it Gal (RCG)
A Tribe Called Red - Electric Pow Wow Drum (Moombahton edit) (Unreleased)
A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario (Jive)
Listen out for A Tribe Called Red's next album dropping early Spring
Download A Tribe Called Red’s first album for free
Watch Zeds Dead in session
Listen to a DJ mix music by up and coming producer Last Japan