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Photo by Falling Tree Photography.

Video of the Week: A Tribe Called Red’s “The Manawan Session”

By Kabriya Coghlan on June 24, 2016

A Tribe Called Red released a video Tuesday called “The Manawan Session,” which follows them as they travel to Manawan, Atikamekw Nation, in Quebec, in order to record new music with Black Bear Singers, a drum group from the community of Manawan, of the Atikamekw nation in Quebec.


The eight-minute, documentary-style video explores the collaboration between the two groups – a dream project that was years in the making for A Tribe Called Red.

The local Ottawa group is made up three DJs: Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau (of the Nipissing First Nation), Tim “2oolman” Hill, (Mohawk, of the Six Nations of the Grand River), and Bear Witness (of the Cayuga First Nation).

A Tribe Called Red released their self-titled debut album in 2012 and quickly gained attention for their unique blending of electronic dance music with elements of traditional First Nations music, particularly vocal chanting and drumming. In 2014, they won a Juno Award for Breakthrough Group.

Still from "The Manawan Session"

Still from “The Manawan Session”

In their new video, the group drives up to Manawan for a very special recording session.

“It’s been a dream of A Tribe Called Red’s right from the beginning to actually work with a drum group and get to direct a drum group,” Bear Witness explains in the video.

He calls the project a “blending of traditional culture with contemporary music.”

The video shows some of the drumming performances that took place at Manawan and includes interviews with the Black Bear drummers. One of the drummers says he first heard of A Tribe Called Red when they reached out to talk about recording with them four years ago.

Photo from Black Bear's Facebook page.

Photo from Black Bear’s Facebook page.

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“When we make music, there is no writing session,” the Black Bear drummer explains. “We look for a melody first and we look for a good sound.”

The video is an interesting glimpse into the collaboration. The members of A Tribe Called Red explain how they hope Black Bear’s drumming and voices will come together with their style of music production, as well as why this project was so important to them.

As Bear Witness says,

“We need this music within popular culture that defines us, because it’s time now for us to come out and finally have the opportunity to depict ourselves, show ourselves, in a way that we want to be seen.”

“There’s this history of Indigenous people being portrayed always by the outsider, always looking in. We’re here to represent indigenous people in the realest way that we’ve never had the chance to show before.”

2oolman also explains in the video how positive it is to have that kind of representation in the media and pop culture.

“It’s good to hear someone on the radio and they’re native, it’s good to see someone on TV and they’re native,” he says.

“It’s good to see someone win a Juno Award and they’re Native,” he laughs. “It’s good to see things like that for Native people.”

A Tribe Called Red are performing a free show at Ottawa’s Dragon Boat Festival at Mooney’s Bay this Sunday, June 26, at 8 p.m. Supporting acts Loon Choir and Young Empires will play shows at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.