By: David Garcia
Formed in 2008, Nahko and Medicine For the People have spread their message of harmony and inner strength throughout the world. Though the members of the five-piece hail from all around the globe, the group has quickly bonded with not only each other but their steadily growing fanbase, which they refer to as their tribe. Their sound encompasses a fusion of various cultural and musical influences each from their own personal journeys, making them a frequent addition to many major music festivals around the world. The band is currently gearing up for their first appearance in Europe after wrapping up the western leg of the Water Is Life Tour.
Last May, the band played at the Constellation Room in front of a packed crowd before heading up north to perform at the annual California Roots Music and Arts Festival. There, the band made history as they were the only non-headlining band to ever be called out for an encore at the event, showing just how compelling their music can be to those who are witness to it. The Weekly had the chance to reach out to the band's frontman, Nahko Bear, to ask him a few questions about his musical influences, the Water Is Life Tour and the tribe's evolution.
OC Weekly (David Garcia) Last year you played the Constellation Room. What does it mean for you to be returning to The Observatory nearly a year later and playing on the main stage?
Nahko Bear: It's a huge honor and a beautiful growth spurt for us! We're amazed and in awe of the continual roller coaster of vision manifesting before us. It's going to be pumping! Even though none of us grew up in the area, we feel our tribe is strong and the family that supports this movement is going to come full power.
Listening to your music, it's apparent that you draw influence from all different genres and walks of life. How would you describe your sound and style to someone who has never heard your music?
That's a great question. People ask me that all the time. Usually, I say something along the lines of acoustic hip-hop rock with a world fusion. And then I end it like, 'We're storytellers…bridging culture and poetry and activism.'"
Nahko and Medicine For The People – "Black As Night"
Each one of your songs clearly holds a powerful message behind it and in the track, "So Thankful," you reveal many experiences from your personal life including being born from a rape incident. How would you say those experiences have crafted your lyrical style and truly made the music a medicine for yourself to share with the people?
Our lives are ships out to sea. Sometimes it's a bumpy ride. At other times it's smooth sailing. The lighthouse could be our song; The grounding object that brings us back to center, to land, to earth. They shine for us as conduits to our soul, as reflections of who we really are. What we experience out on that vast ocean is unique and special to our personal story. But we are all on the same giant wave, all connected to that wind, to that lighthouse beaming, to the same stars guiding… We are all one in this way. So the music has shaped how I write and the stories have shaped how I walk. They have fed me in their respective ways to fill the hunger of identity and purpose and will continue to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Your current run is titled the Water Is Life Tour. Why did you choose this name and what does it mean to you?
We only get one planet. One source of clean water. One atmosphere to breathe. One forest to assist with filtering our air. One ocean to join in this circle of life. My message to the people is simple. Generations before, however malicious or actively rebuilding, have left us with a planet in a cycle of climate disaster as the seasons come and go. We have been so careless with these precious resources. I find the awakening of the water within us as a crucial part of the story towards healing the waters without. As we are mostly made of water, I had to look at the battle before us and understand my role. In which case, we tour country after country casting prayers to the land and to the people and trust that these songs and our vibration are helping heal the water within and the water without. California needs that prayer big time right now!
As you make your return to Santa Ana for a second time, what sort of impact do you aim to leave on those in attendance for the show on March 5th? How would you say your live show has evolved since your last show in the Constellation Room?
The impact will be deep. There is a hunger for depth, honesty, and raw connection in the music scene. Our ability to connect with our fans is a huge piece to the movement. Our band has gotten tighter, we have fresh members, and we're all in such good places in our lives that we're able to offer our deepest love and shower the tribe with positive reflections. I think for new people, they'll be pleasantly surprised that this is not some hippie movement or fruity stuff I'm talking about. We rock out and sing praises to the earth for the abundance that is this planet. We're also strongly tied to the native community in many sectors so we are advocates for indigenous people worldwide. All nations unite.
Nahko and Medicine For The People perform with Joseph at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Thurs., March 5th, 7p.m. $25. All Ages. Find out more about Nahko and Medicine For The People at their website http://nahko.com.