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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘R.E.D.’ By A Tribe Called Red

A Tribe Called Red is an indigenous Canadian DJ collective. The group describes their music as a “modern gateway into urban and contemporary indigenous culture and experience, celebrating all its layers and complexity.” They seek to promote “inclusivity, empathy, and acceptance amongst all races and genders in the name of social justice.”

From their forthcoming album, “We Are The Halluci Nation,” which will be released on September 16, comes, “R.E.D,” a remarkable collaboration between Yasiin Bey and an Iraqi-Canadian MC known as Narcy. The track also features the drum crew, Black Bear, which gives the music the collective’s signature “pow wow” sound.

An interlude in the song from Native American poet John Trudell tells us the collective, through its music, are confronting the A Lie Nation, or alienation. The material religions, such as capitalism or colonialism, “traumatize and numb” those who are part of A Lie Nation.

“All the things of the Earth and in the sky have energy to be exploited. Even themselves mining their spirits into souls sold. Into nothing is sacred, not even their self. The A Lie Nation, alienation,” Trudell recites.

This is the political backbone of the song. The verses on the track represent swagger and confidence to confront the lies, to stand up to the alienation.

As the music video shows Bey and Narcy in the desert, the two are on the same plain. It appears to signify borders will not get in the way of their freedom of movement and keep them from seeing each other.

“Emergency on Planet Earth,” Narcy raps, alluding to the climate crisis. “They say the dat is comin’/ Drummin’ that you can’t reverse.”

The Iraqi-Canadian MC adds, “Don’t chase an illusion,” then name checks the Halluci Nation.

What Halluci Nation represents is a tribe of people, who are either indigenous or who have decolonized their minds. Or both.

A Tribe Called Red says, “The Halluci Nation has no barriers, it sees no borders and their operatives are everywhere.”

Narcy, according to The Boombox, said of the track, “I think it is the first time in history where you have an African, an Iraqi, and the Indigenous of Canada on one song. It’s an important breaking in culture, we are coming together to counter the narratives built around the history of our communities and showing the power of our people combined. It feels like the beginning of something new and old, the rebirth after many injustices.”

At the fore of the collective’s music is empowerment for indigenous people around the world, who have long histories of fighting colonization. They, who feel they are not represented, misrepresented, devalued, or stigmatized, as A Tribe Called Red describes, are in need of “positive role models and a positive self-identity.”

Positive role models can be found among those standing up to oppression. For example, the struggle to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota has become a flashpoint for indigenous people. Thousands are seeing the strength of people power.

Or positive role models can also be found among artists, who come from the margins and give people from their culture the inspiration to survive and live without feeling alone and discarded.

Listen to “R.E.D.” by A Tribe Called Red:


Are you an independent artist who has written and/or produced a protest song that you would like featured? Or do you have a favorite protest song? Submit a song to protestmusic@Shadowproof.com

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."