Published on July 10th, 2022 | by Stacey McLaughlin0
Concert Review: The Halluci Nation (Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival)
The Halluci Nation brought the beats to the Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival last week. Our lady on the spot, Stacey, was there for the awesomeness.
On July 4, 2022 Bear Witness and Tim ‘2oolman’ Hill (formerly of A Tribe Called Red) took the stage at the TD Mainstage, Bessborough Gardens for the Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival as The Halluci Nation. The artists are known for their blending of electronic dance music with traditional Indigenous music and strong messages. Performing after a set by electronic artist Kiesza, The Halluci Nation kept the party going until after sunset. The crowd was energized, jubilant, and in the mood to dance. With the nonstop rhythm and catchy beats it was hard not to dance or at least tap your feet to the music.
Another fixture from their Tribe Called Red days, that I was happy to see continued with this show, was the inclusion of Indigenous dancers. For this show they featured Nehiyaw/Vietnamese Grassdancer Matthew Wood, who goes by the stage name Creeasian. His dancing was lively and added another dimension to the performance of this music, while furthering the focus on Indigenous culture that is central to The Halluci Nation’s objective. He also served as a hype man, keeping the audience energized once the sun went down, and near the end of the show he even brought some children on to share the stage to dance and have their own little moment in the spotlight.
In previous interviews, the group has noted that collaboration is a cornerstone of how they build their music, and this was evident during this performance. Some notable musical collaborators include hip-hop star Yasiin Bey (AKA Mos Def); Indigenous Australian band OKA; the Wayuu-Colombian powerhouse Lido Pimienta;Texas “electro-cumbia” producer El Dusty; Anishnaabeg drum group Chippewa Travellers; and Maori artist Rob Ruha. I was especially delighted by the performance of one of their songs created with Inuk singer, Tanya Tagaq. They have also included pieces of spoken word pieces and speeches, including frequent collaborator John Trudell, whose work inspired the group’s name.
Continuing the thread of collaborating with other musicians and dancers for their performances, visual art collaboration is another area that is crucial to the Halluci Nation experience. From the background visuals in their performances, to working with Indigenous artists during music videos and other aspects of the music promotional cycle, The Halluci Nation always puts Indigenous creators first. They have worked with a variety of talented artists including Whess Harman, Saige Mukash and Cedar-Eve Peters. By including artists from a variety of backgrounds, they are creating a community, and helping to shape the representation of today’s Indigenous experience. The colourful visuals and corresponding light production really complimented the overall feeling of the show: fun, artistic, and deeply moving.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s as a mixed race person with a Cree father and a white (English/Scottish) mother in a very white community, I had very little exposure to my own Indigenous culture. Positive representation of Indigenous people in media was severely limited, and negative depictions were the norm. Seeing groups like The Halluci Nation is just as important for people like me as it is for the youth. Seeing positive examples of your people is so important for mental and spiritual health, and it’s also important for sharing the culture with others in a way that is as informative as it is entertaining. This was my third time seeing Bear Witness and 2oolman perform, and my first time seeing them in their current iteration. Being able to enjoy their music and performance outside, sitting with friends at the top of a hill, under the trees was nothing sort of magic. With so much bad, scary, and unpleasant things going on in the world, it was nice to disconnect for an evening and enjoy something special.