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Nahko and Medicine For The People are in the midst of one of their largest headlining tours since forming in 2008 in Portland, Oregon. ext week, following a Friday headlining spot at Hangtown Music Festival in Placerville, Nahko Bear and his band will play Saturday and Sunday October 22 and 23 at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. Saturday is sold out, but tickets are still available for Sunday.

This tour comes on the heels of a coming of age for Nahko Bear, exhibited in his band’s sophomore LP and SideOneDummy debut album Hoka. ‘Hoka’ is a Lakota word, an indigenous tribe from the Dakota/Minnesota area. It is a call to action: Crazy Horse would call it out when he went into battle, and Nahko’s call is to put action to the words that he says. Not just to talk, but to do, for a better planet, to challenge himself and others to make a change.

Sonically, Nahko and Medicine for the People is a gathering of global influences: from hip-hop to folk, rock to world music. At its core, however, the group continues to emphasize acceptance, sustainability, and growth. At the root of it, it’s relatable because it’s human. It’s not too far right or too far left. It’s right in the middle, and it’s something this generation is hungry for, Nahko says.

The lead single “San Quentin” is one of 19 new tracks that surrounds Nahko’s journey since their first record came out three years ago and chronicles the journey Nahko took to meeting his father’s murderer at the legendary prison the track is titled after. Give it a listen below:

I had an opportunity to speak with Nahko Bear a few weeks ago about the upcoming tour, the union and divisions of our country as well as some focus on the good things in front of us as well.

The Bay Bridged: Hi, Nahko! Thanks for joining me this afternoon, my name is Josh and I’m with The Bay Bridged out of San Francisco. I’m not sure if you remember, but we spoke about a year ago when you played at Founder’s Fest in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Nahko Bear: Oh yeah! Yeah yeah yeah! Absolutely, man! How’ve you been?

TBB: Well, since then I’ve moved to Santa Cruz, California.

NB: Whoa! Hey, that’s a bit of a different lifestyle.

TBB: Much different, much nicer for me. But I couldn’t help notice that you have not one but two shows coming up here in October!

NB: Yeah dude, double-header!

TBB: Is that because of the surfing out here that you decided to make a whole weekend of it?

NB: Well you know, every time we’ve played The Catalyst lately we’ve sold it out, and so many people love to come out for us in that area and it’s such a great venue, and yeah, obviously Santa Cruz is a great place to play, it just made sense to do a double-header and give a bit more time to the people there.

TBB: Right on. Since I’ve been out here I can definitely tell you have a strong fan base out here, between the different festivals you do like Cali Roots, and you have Hangtown Music Festival coming up in Placerville. I understand you’re getting ready for a festival this weekend? Which one?

NB: Yeah, actually it’s in Minnesota, it’s called Shangri-La, we’ve been going there probably for the last…maybe like six years now? One of my favorite festivals. I actually work with them on another level, they run a nonprofit NGO charity that I work with them on as well. We’re a pretty close family.

TBB: Awesome! You said that festival is in Minnesota, are you taking any time around that to stop in North Dakota at all?

NB: I am, we’re actually leaving in the morning (September 8) for Standing Rock. It’s a pretty remarkable time…just the amount of tribes that are being represented right now…

TBB: It’s unprecedented.

NB: Right? It’s just such a major moment in history…

TBB: I was hoping to get a comment on your perspective surrounding the situation.

NB: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously there is the huge media blackout going on right now, it’s sad to observe on the one hand how much our country turns the other way, you know, and with the amount of numbers that are showing up it is getting some attention, however, obviously the mainstream media is going to paint the picture of wild and out-of-control activists and natives and how they are going to be “disruptive to what’s good for the economy,” however, we have Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, we’ve got The Young Turks, there’s some respectable publications that are representing and we’re getting good press on that level, however, ‘Is it enough?’ is the question, really, right?

I think it takes a deeper look at how we consider our source of energy, you know. How far away are we, really, from looking into a deeper sense of renewables? The hardest part is really the fact that neither of the presidential candidates at the moment are going to be standing in any kind of position that Obama’s in to handle that. He did stop Exxon-Mobil to a degree, but the hard fact of the matter is that until we’re ready to make that switch, there’s always going to be another pipeline and you know, I would pray that the collective of people that are coming together will really be able to do some good. At the moment we have no political standing, you know. The permits haven’t been revoked, they’re bulldozing grave sites, they’ve hired private security to scare away the activists.

I have a deep faith in what

[the activists] are doing and supporting it on the ceremonial end of things, it’s just our duty to show up, you know? It’s our duty to stand there and be on the line. But whether or not it will prove to be anything politically changing is another thing entirely.

So we show. We always show up and hold a space because that’s what we’re meant to do as stewards, just being there. My biggest concern is making sure that the message stays non-violent, you know? No matter what happens, if our side shows any retaliation in a violent manner then they’re going to paint the picture in a negative way. I just wish people study more of how Gandhi resisted, and even MLK’s inspired sit-ins, where people would be kicking and spitting on them and they wouldn’t retaliate, you know? Eventually that message was heard.

TBB: I think it’s really cool that you’re taking the opportunity and the time to stand in solidarity for this.

NB: It’s important, and I’m realizing more and more as I get older how important just showing up is.

TBB: If you just go to class, you’ll pass, it’s as simple as being there.

NB: Yup.

TBB: Moving on a little bit, when you’re not creating music or being active in the global community, what do you do to relax? What kind of tunes do you throw on? What’s your downtime like?

NB: (laughs hard) You asked what kind of tunes I put on? Well, some of what I do in my downtime is what I‘m doing right now. I’m actually riding a horse while I’m talking to you.

TBB: No way!

NB: Absolutely. Hang on a second, we’re crossing a bridge, I just want to make sure everything’s alright. It’s kind of a big bridge.

TBB: Absolutely, safety first, man.

NB: We’ve never crossed a bridge this big before. (To the horse) Good job, Foxfire! Alright, well we made it! So yeah, lately I’ve been writing and spending time on the ocean is always important to me. I just got back from Europe last week and went straight here. I just acquired this beautiful horse about four months ago, so in my spare time I come out to Shasta and work with him and get back into writing, and prepare him for a big ceremony we’re doing at the end of the month.

At the beginning of the year we started working with this native tribe on Mount Shasta and putting together a sort of triathlon to raise money and awareness for the salmon issue we have been facing here in Northern California and their waterways. So we’re doing a 15-day triathlon, it’s a bike, run, walk and the last four days are a horseback ride along Lake Shasta. www.run4salmon.org is the site, and that’s been a big consumer of my time the last year, preparing for that.

As for what I’ve been listening to lately, I’ve actually been hooked on some of the bands that we had help out on the record, like JOSEPH, they’re actually a band of three sisters. They just put out a new record. We just discovered this girl from Jamaica, Jah9, she’s a great, great queen reggae artist and lyricist. My summer record was definitely Chance the Rapper’s record, that was one of my favorites because of his great poetic abilities and the truth that he speaks. I really admire his work and putting Kirk Franklin on that record was a really big +1 for me. If you’re not familiar with Kirk Franklin, he’s not old but he’s got an old-school vibe, he’s a phenomenal gospel singer.

TBB: I know I’ve heard him being sampled, but I can’t say I’m familiar with his output on its own.

NB: Yeah? Check him out!

nahko and medicine for the people at founders fest by joshua huver 8

TBB: Oh you know it! So this tour that’s coming up, is it the Hoka tour, or is it just another season, another reason to get yourself out there on the road?

NB: Um, yeah, fall tour is definitely going to be a call to action for sure. We’re going to be bringing along some NGOs with us, the main one is HeadCount, a voter registration organization where one of the things they’re pushing are getting younger folks involved in politics so we can begin to look at fixing some of these bigger issues, it’s one of those things that we all agree upon as a band. You know, I’m not a politician, but I know what’s fair. If you look at the democracy that we copied in the beginning, large pieces of it came from the Iroquois Confederacy and I think that if the young people want to, we can sort of take it back from the mess that it has become. We just need to get young people involved and not be put off by it.

TBB: On that note, aside from the presidential race, do you think that there is an upheaval going on right now?

NB: Yeah, absolutely, I don’t feel like we’ve lost much momentum since Bernie has lost the campaign — although I’m sure we have, but I think that a lot of folks, rather than feeling disenfranchised, they looked to themselves which was really what the campaign was about in the first place. They looked to themselves and they said, ‘OK, what can I do now that this candidate can’t run anymore and these other options are horrible?’ It’s not about picking the lesser of two evils for me, t’s about remembering that it’s not up to the president to decide half of the country.

TBB: Are there any new spots you’re hitting on this tour or are you sticking to pretty familiar locations?

NB: To be honest, we haven’t really done a proper tour like this where we’ve visited some of these major cities. We’ve opened, but like, we’re doing a headlining show in Portland, in my hometown, we haven’t done that before. We’re moving up the size of the venue in some of these cities too in Seattle, Portland, and Pheonix so it’s really exciting. But for the most part yeah, we’re revisiting some familiar places.

TBB: Awesome! That about sums up the questions I had prepared, do you have any parting words or anything that you’d like to leave on?

NB: Nah, I think that’s good! I’m happy to talk about some of these things and the more that I talk about it the more I understand it myself, you know?

TBB: Totally! Very cool man, enjoy your horseback ride!

NB: Thanks brother! Peace!

Nahko and Medicine For The People, HIRIE
October 22, 2016
The Catalyst
9
pm, (16+) SOLD OUT

Nahko and Medicine For The People, Rabbit Wilde
October 23, 2016
The Catalyst
9pm, $26 (16+)

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