Under Review

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A Tribe Called Red

We Are the Halluci Nation

Pirates Blend; 16/09/2016

author
Courtney Heffernan

We Are the Halluci Nation is the most ambitious and cohesive album from A Tribe Called Red (or, ATCR) to date. The album is also their most explicitly political. On previous releases, their medium was their message: ATCR amalgamated traditional and contemporary culture to force their audience to rethink their perceptions of Indigenous Canadians. On We Are the Halluci Nation, they explicitly address the damages caused by colonialism.

The album is centered upon the concept of the Halluci Nation, a concept which activist John Trudell explains during the album’s titular and opening track. The Halluci Nation challenges the system into which Indigenous people have been forced. They oppose the Alie Nation, the system created by colonizers in attempts to force assimilation. The dichotomy between the two nations is reinforced by author Joseph Boyden’s interludes. He speaks as a prisoner incarcerated in the Alie Nation Correctional Facility, ruminating on the trauma caused by residential schools and colonial projects.

Halluci Nation is also a term for the collective of artists and activists ATCR brought together on their album. The DJ trio reunited with their frequent collaborators Northern Voice and Black Bear to create the fusion of electronic and pow wow dance music for which they are renowned. Tanya Tagaq is featured on “Sila,” in a track that melds electronic reverbs with Inuit throat singing. The Halluci Nation also includes Indigenous artists from around the world. Australian beatmakers OKA lend their reggae-infused didgeridoo to “Maima Koopi.” Swedish-Sami artist Maxida Märak’s joik-singing takes centre stage on laidback track “Eanan.” Colombian artist Lido Pimienta’s soaring vocals make “The Light” haunting, especially after the bass drops and her voice become dissonant.

With the support of the Halluci Nation, ATCR articulates their mission to eradicate the legacy of colonialism and the damages it has caused. On “The Virus,” MC and poet Saul Williams speaks to the many shapes that the virus of colonialism takes, and the diverse people the virus impacts as colonialism attempts to impose divisions. The Halluci Nation, however, does not recognize the limitations of borders.

Album single “R.E.D.” exemplifies the best of We Are the Halluci Nation. The track features Yasiin Bey, Narcy and Black Bear in a combination of hip-hop, pow wow and electronic dance music. With A Tribe Called Red as the producers, the Halluci Nation proposes a vision for a new society. Bey says of the shared vision, “[I]t was a dream / Now it’s a living thing.”