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Nahko and Medicine for the People are a folk/world music collective that started in 2008. It has recently gone through a few changes in its line up but the head of the group and singer/songwriter Nahko Bear has been a vital part of the band.
Nahko Bear was born in Portland, Oregon and is of Apache, Puerto Rican, and Filipino decent. His grandmother forced his mom to go into prostitution at 14 and after a violent rape attack, Nahko was born. Nahko’s mother being so young when the rape happened was one of the reasons he was given up for adoption. His father, on the hand, was killed when he was very young and he didn’t get to know him at all. He was raised by a white suburban family but loved just the same. The family who raised him was very Christian yet taught him the value of music and taught him the piano. During this time, he discover his biological mother through the internet and started to discover more about his Native culture while at the same time connecting with his biological father’s family through Facebook and discovering his Filipino side.
Fast forward to later in his life, he first moves to Alaska where he plays piano at a dinner theater and learns more about music and other alternatives to his Christian way of thinking back then. He started to get more into the folk and indie rock scene where he could channel some the anger and angst he was feeling.
He then moved to Hawaii where he resides to this day to work on an organic farm. Through his journey, he discovered music as a way to cope with his families past while bringing culture and a social message.
In 2008, a form of this band got started and then a few years later the full vision of Nahko and Medicine for the People was born.
Original Line Up:
Nahko Bear- Singer/Guitar/Piano
Chase Makai- Guitar
Tim Snider- Violin
Dustin Thomas- Bass
Hope Medford- Afro-Peruvian Bajo Cajon/West African Djembe drums/Back Up Vocals
New Line Up:
Nahko Bear- Singer/Songwriter/Guitar/Piano
Chase Makai- Guitar
Justin Chittams- Drums
Max Ribner- Trumpet/Flugelhorn
Tim Snider- Violin
Hope Medford- Afro-Peruvian Bajo Cajon/West African Djembe drums/Back Up Vocals (But was not featured as much on HOKA)
On The Verge:
This album came out in 2010 and was very stripped back folk music. Many of the songs played on the album feel like they were recorded during a tour in the van or a during a live show. There was a combo of music with a message and spiritual/cultural vibes a well. Shoutout to HOPE MEDFORD who did drums/vocals & Dustin Thomas who did bass for this album and was rockin it. Favorite Tracks: Mitakuye Oyasin, Father Mountain, Vultures of Culture, Simplicity, Ghost Embodied, Pueo, Build a Bridge (Live)
Dark As Night:
In 2013, the group's album Dark as Night came out and was more produced then their previous album. This is when I think they gained a lot more of a following and started playing more big name festivals. They were still very folk like with even more messages to go along. Their biggest song off the album was the title track "Black as Night" where it started a social media campaign with the hashtag #IBelieveInTheGoodThingsComming which is one of their lyrics.
During this album, Nahko collaborated with different artist including Soja and Michael Franti doing a song off Soja’s album called “I Believe” which fit Nahko well. This song was a beautiful way of bringing both what Nahko says in his song "Black As Night" and what Jacob Hempfield (the lead singer of SOJA) says in "I Believe."
Nahko also started dating actress Shailene Woodley, who I love by the way, and find them to be a great pairing. They were both featured in the young climate activists' Earth Guardians song "Indigenous Roots."
Shoutout to HOPE MEDFORD who did drums/vocals & Dustin Thomas who did bass for this album and was rockin it. Favorite Tracks: Aloha Ke Akua, Manifesto II, Warrior People, So Thankful, Budding Trees, 7 Feathers, Dark As Night, On The Verge, My Country, I Mua
This is the newest album to come out just last month and I love it. This is the first album they use a producer and being under a label (a punk label mind you). Their line up in the band has changed a little this cycle as some of the other musicians who were mostly female like Hope who have taken some time off to raise families. Also Dustin Thomas who did bass for the past two albums went on to prusue his own solo stuff and is killing it. I recently heard in a interview with Nahko that HOKA was a word that the Dakota (Sioux) warrior Crazy Horse said before going to war and dying. It is said to mean “Let’s Go!” and was pronounced “Hoka Hey.” This album has some powerful songs on it like San Quentin & Make A Change which were the two singles from the album. Favorite Tracks: Hoka, It Is Written, San Quentin, We Shall Overcome, Great Spirit, We Are On Time, Love Letters to God, Heart Forward, Tus Pies (Your Feet), Backbone, Build A Bridge, Runner, Make A Change (ft. Zella Day), The Wolves Have Returned (ft. Trevor Hall, Xavior Hall, Leah Song, & Joseph)
Why I Love This Band:
This album, like this band in general, is an important voice for the people. It gives us a way to articulate the feelings most of us are feeling about ourselves and the world around us. For me this band gives me hope for the future and gives me pride in my culture being Native American but also a mix of many different cultures through out our Mother Earth. Nahko has said he describes their music as rock & roll world music with a message. I love listening to what they have to say because it goes hand in hand with things I already believe in culturally, spiritually, socially and so on. They just have such an awesome energy around them and their sound is so catchy and I can dance to it while knowing I can make a change with it.
Alright, Medicine Tribe, go check out this incredible band. They will change your life!
Artists like Nahko & Medicine for the People (and will probably do a blog post on them the future):
SOJA, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Xavior Rudd, Earth Guardians, Rasing Appalachia, OKA, The Marleys, Eddie Vedder-Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Raury, Willow & Jaden Smith, ’60s artist with a message, World music, Native Music, Conscious hip-hop & Indigos/Starseeds All Over The World!
Alright 'til next time believe in the good things coming…