Martha Redbone and A Tribe Called Red were two of the twelve world music groups selected to share their talents at globalFEST, one of the industry's most highly respected single night global music showcases. The tenth edition of the annual showcase happened January 13 at Webster Hall, in New York City.
At the halfway point of the evening Martha Redbone and her group Roots Project took the stage with a wonderful mixture of aboriginal traditions and Appalachian bluegrass funk—a unique performer and sound filling the room with her dynamic energy.
A Tribe Called Red, undoubtedly the hottest new musical act in Indian country, closed the show. The three First Nations DJs turned up the heat in an already steamy room with their signature mixture of contemporary beats and traditional pow wow , which has spawned the terms Pow Wow Step and Electric Pow Wow.
Carol Cooper of the Village Voice wrote that Redbone and ATCR were tied as the two most impressive acts. "Both have found fresh ways of asserting and defending an aboriginal identity using mainstream musical forms."
Cooper praised Redbone's mix of Native, African-American, and Appalachian influences, currently on display in songs based on the poetry of William Blake: "She reminds me of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, only I think i like her songs better. Standout live moment? Funk-a-billy versions of 'This Train' and 'Drum'."
New York Times reviewer Jon Pareles wrote that Redbone's "voice held both the taut determination of mountain music and the bite of American Indian singing," and praised ATCR's ability to fuse pow wow and electronic music "with muscle and good timing."
Cooper described ATCR as "aboriginal children of the digital age who have serious turntable and MIDI skills." "They are funny too," she added. "Check out the whitewashed Cleveland Indians sweatshirt adapted to read 'Caucasians' under a Howdy Doody version of Chief Wahoo. Last night they not only proved they can rock almost every style of contemporary EDM, they made sure their original beat tracks included sonically enhanced loops of authentic Indian dance or ceremonial music. They also made wonderfully atmospheric used of an iconic Rihanna sample. And why not? The West Indian/Indian connection goes all the way back to Arawaks and Caribs and their black descendants, which today comprise the Garifuna people."
Such interest and praise from two of New York's cultural arbiters could be a signal that the world is finally ready to discover something Natives already know: There's a great diversity to the sounds coming out of Indian country. Traditional music will always be central to Native culture, but it's also a foundation for innovators in such genres as dance and folk.