Introducing: Nahko and Medicine For The People
This six member American world music musical collective, headed by Nahko Bear, just released the music video for their latest single “San Quentin”. The single’s birth is due to Nahko visiting the man responsible for murdering his father – and forgiving him.
The group’s headman was born in Portland, Oregon but is of multi-ethnic background, including Apache, Puerto Rican and Filipino descent. Nahko has an incredible life story that resulted into the creation of “San Quentin”, a single from the group’s new album HOKA which will be released on June 10th. The said album was recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer Ted Hutt, a man who has previously worked with artists such as The Gaslight Anthem, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucero, and Dropkick Murphys.
Nahko was adopted as a baby by a middle class, white American family in the north-west of the country and grew up playing piano at a young age – which is where he learned to respect music. However, disillusioned by the world around him and inspired by vagabond Americana musicians like Conor Oberst and Bob Dylan, he left home as a teenager in search of adventure and self-discovery.
It was then he found his mother on the Internet, met her, and began to learn the truth about his true ethnicity of Puerto Rican, Native American (Apache) and Filipino descent. Because his mother was forced into human trafficking, Nahko and his mother are advocates for the anti-trafficking movement of indigenous men and women. A few years later, Nahko learned that his biological father had been murdered in 1994. He went to visit the man who killed his father and forgave him, which led to the creation of the new single ‘San Quentin’.
“I went there to forgive this man and, in forgiving him, I freed myself. It only hurts yourself if you hang on to hate. Forgiveness empowers you to create change. I believe everything happens for a reason – good and bad. People are put in your life for a reason, and you need to turn that pain into something positive to make a world a better place.”
Armed with a fierce set of ideals, he set out to bridge the cultural gaps dividing his own psyche.
Nahko describes the group’s music as hip-hop with a mix of folk rock with a message of living in harmony with each other and Mother Nature. In lyrical term, they explore themes such as indigenous ideology and mythology, social commentary on economics and the distribution of wealth and power, youth empowerment and direct action.
The band first made waves in the music industry with their song “Aloha Ke Akua” who’s fan-made video has now garnered ore than 5.6 MILLION views on Youtube and became a Top Ten hit on both the Billboard Top Alternative Albums and Top Heatseekers charts.
Aside from Nahko, Medicine for the People are: Chase Makai (lead guitarist), Justin Chittams (drums), Pato (bass guitar), Max Ribner (horns) and Tim Snider (violin).
The contrast between the beat and rhythm of the song compared to its lyrics is just amazing and mind-blowing. “San Quentin” is definitely music festival worthy. One can’t help but dance to its hip-hop beat laced with tribal undertones and just let loose. However, the lyrics will hit you like a bullet in the chest especially after you find out about Nahko’s past.
As mentioned before, “San Quentin” is a single born from Nahko visiting his father’s killer and forgiving him. This song is an embodiment of that moment. With lines such as “needed some closure, crossed a couple borders/got into the mind of a tortured warrior/”I alone am responsible for a darkest past”” will surely make you shed a few tears while wearing a soft smile on your face.
If the song alone already gave you the feels, the music video of the song will not make you feel any better. It’s very minimalist but it’s also a re-enactment of how Nahko faced his father’s killer. In the video, Nahko sits in front of a convict who has his hands chained at the back. It’s not that stellar, to be honest but there are some moments that really stood out. One of these is the change that occured in the video’s background during the middle of the song. During the first few minutes of the video, the backdrop is in grayscale and a bit dark but then as the line “I’ve seen some crazy dreams manifested” is sang, the background turns a bright white. This may be a symbolism of the singer’s realization, his freedom or both.
After that, Nahko, still sat in front of a convict, took a key from his shirt’s pocket and sets it on the table. A few moments passed and Nahko stood up from his seat and frees the convict himself.
Finally, the last stunning moment of the video is when the view stills on the white paper set upon an easel that Nahko has been painting on throughout the video. It has the words: “I forgive you” in red paint.
Forgiving someone is an action that is truly difficult to do. People who have done you little harm already seem impossible to forgive but this man managed to forgive the man who killed his father, setting himself free in the process. It is truly remarkable and inspiring.
We salute Nahko for performing such a brave act and creating a beautiful song out of it.
This band continues to gain members of their global tribe of like-minded fans as they spread their musical message having toured with acts such as Michael Franti, Xavier Rudd, SOJA and Trevor Hall.
After the roaring success of their sold-out debut visit to the UK last year and a sold-out tour this January, Nahko will be back again for a full Euro tour this August. Check the full list of tour dates on their website here! The pre-order of their album HOKA is available on the site as well.
Tell us what you think of Nahko and Medicine For The People in the comments below or tweet us @CelebMix!