Over the past two years, Canadian experimental electronic group A Tribe Called Red has been working to build a nation.
The group — made up of Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau, Tim "2oolman" Hill and Bear Witness, all hailing from Ontario indigenous reservations — has been traveling around the world, running the global festival circuit and meeting and collaborating with musicians and activists from all walks of life. They've long been credited as progenitors of pow-wow step, an EDM-based genre sampling North American indigenous music, but over the past two years their sound has grown more than ever.
They've returned empowered, with new music and an invitation to anyone dissatisfied with the current state of our post-colonial world to join them in building the Halluci Nation — at once part of the name of their new album, We Are the Halluci Nation, and the name of a loose collective of artists and activists dedicated to eradicating the lingering effects of colonialism.
"For me, Halluci Nation means an inclusive mindset where people see that the way the system is currently set up is completely flawed and recognize we need progressive change," Campeau said. "There's a lot of like-minded people like that, and we're trying to rally them, in the way indigenous people know how to rally people, and that's creating nationhoods."
Tuesday, they shared the first video from the project's title track "We Are the Hallucination." It features poetry from John Trudell. Trudell was a Santee Dakota activist instrumental in building the American Indian Movement with whom the group collaborated with extensively before he died in December 2015.
Trudell came up with the name Halluci Nation, and his poetry and concepts appear throughout the album.
"The idea of North America is a brand-new concept," Campeau said during a Friday phone conversation. "It's a club made for people who like the founding fathers of the club. Anybody that understands that the current IOS of our society isn't necessarily working the way it should be, and isn't as inclusive as it should be in existing for everybody — that's where the Halluci Nation comes in, someplace can come and rally and discussing ideas."
Members of the Halluci Nation include rappers Saul Williams and Yasiin Bey, formerly the mighty Mos Def; Swedish-Sami joik-singer Maxida Märak; Australian beatmakers OKA; and Aboriginal artists Northern Voice, Black Bear and the Chippewa Travelers, who all feature on the album.
Working with this diverse range of artists informed one of the project's higher aims in finding points of connection between various indigenous struggles the world over.
"That was a big thing that I learned traveling so much, meeting indigenous people all over the world — I realized that colonization has a checklist. We've all been through the same thing," Campeau said. "The Sami people and Australia's indigenous both have gone through Christian-run, government-sanctioned schooling. That's a common practice in colonization to re-program indigenous populations to take on Christianity and the value of money and disconnect from their culture and plug them into a different one. In Canada, it's been called cultural genocide."
"And yet it's not just the struggles that are the same, culturally within indigenous people," he continued. "A lot of the ceremonies are the same too, which blew me away. In Australia, they have a smoking ceremony which is basically our smudging ceremony, but with different medicines. But yeah they're all for the same reasons, done with the same intentions. It's really impressive to be able to make those connections with people all over the world. So special."
Read the tracklist for We Are the Halluci Nation below, and keep an eye out for its release on September 16.
1. We Are The Halluci Nation Ft. John Trudell, Northern Voice