After the white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch in March of this year, talk in the office turned to attitudes towards race in New Zealand and nearby Australia, and particularly the relationship with their original inhabitants. While the effects of the structures of colonialism will be playing out for decades to come in both countries, it’s notable that Māori ideas and practices, despite systematic suppression in the past, at least seem a common part of everyday discourse compared with their Aboriginal equivalents in the larger country. Whether it’s in last month’s The Great Learning issue, where guitarist Bruce Russell invoked the idea of wanaga, or Phil Dadson’s Centre for New Zealand Music displaying Māori captions in parallel with English on its homepage, or in recent news, grieving school kids joining each other in a defiant haka, or a local news broadcaster invoking Aroha, the Māori idea of love, the ideas are at least in play with popular culture as a whole.
In recent years my ear has been bent time and again by The Wire Editor-in-Chief Chris Bohn as he explores music by any number of indigenous – or First Nation, or native – musicians. Mostly his focus has been on North America, but not exclusively so, because to geo-target by established borders or nation states runs counter to the principles of many of those who identify in such ways. Chris has followed this thread with a dogged persistence which is his alone – check his Resonance FM radio shows of recent years – and across a wildly diverse range of music. From Laura Ortman to Raven Chacon to A Tribe Called Red, singer-songwriters to modern composition to dance jams, he’s schooled me to parallels in politics, rhetoric, language and consciousness among what’s an increasingly active loose network of artists.
Loose, because although Native American groups are often separated geographically, whether from each other or themselves, the internet has increasingly become a powerful agent of cross-border traffic. Twitter has helped raise awareness and make a noise about issues affecting people, on accounts such as the Native Lit & Culture feed.
With geopolitical battles brewing in the North over transnational gas pipelines, access to the previously untapped sea conduit of the Northwestern Passage, and rights to water and minerals, people on the ground before capitalism are now bearing the brunt of and raising the alarm regarding its most horrifying abuses. These often marginalised groups are forging some of the most original, irreducible, proud and urgent music of the era. So when a letter arrived from sound artist and poet tanner menard, who has served on the tribal council for the Atakapa-Ishak Nation, demanding these voices and musicians be heard, we decided to do just that, across an issue spanning Tanya Tagaq and A Tribe Called Red (and tanner menard’s own Collateral Damage essay).
“As a global community of artists, we can learn to be more sensitive to the needs of Indigenous artists and communities,” notes menard. “But it means adopting a willingness to move beyond escapism towards an aware and politically active culture. As sound artists we have learned to listen to the most minute detail of sound. Can we learn to listen to one another?”
With some of these voices in this issue, it’s clear that listening has been taking place on all sides. Bear gives props to former cover stars Asian Dub Foundation and last month’s Invisible Jukebox subject Congo Natty as models for A Tribe Called Red’s unique mix of dance and discourse; Daniel Spicer’s Primer on the recordings of William Parker includes The Peach Orchard, which essays a lament for the Navajo people.
Meanwhile this month, we say hello to our new colleague, James Gormley, who joins us in the advertising department – we look forward to many stimulating conversations. Derek Walmsley
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Issue 423 May 2019 £4.95 ISSN 0952-0686
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Words Jennifer Lucy Allan, Steve Barker, Mike Barnes, Dan Barrow, Robert Barry, Tristan Bath, Clive Bell, Abi Bliss, Marcus Boon, Britt Brown, Nick Cain, Philip Clark, Byron Coley, Lara C Cory, Julian Cowley, Alan Cummings, Erik Davis, Laina Dawes, Geeta Dayal, Katrina Dixon, Phil England, Kodwo Eshun, Josh Feola, Phil Freeman, Rory Gibb, Francis Gooding, Kurt Gottschalk, Louise Gray, James Hadfield, Andy Hamilton, Adam Harper, Jim Haynes, Ken Hollings, Maya Kalev, David Keenan, Kek-W, Biba Kopf, Matt Krefting, Neil Kulkarni, Sam Lefebvre, Dave Mandl, Howard Mandel, Wayne Marshall, Marc Masters, Noel Meek, Bill Meyer, Aurora Mitchell, Keith Moliné, Brian Morton, Joe Muggs, Alex Neilson, Daniel Neofetou, Louis Pattison, Ian Penman, Emily Pothast, Edwin Pouncey, Nina Power, Chal Ravens, Tony Rettman, Simon Reynolds, Nick Richardson, Bruce Russell, Sukhdev Sandhu, Claire Sawers, Dave Segal, Peter Shapiro, Stewart Smith, Nick Southgate, Daniel Spicer, Richard Stacey, David Stubbs, Greg Tate, Richard Thomas, Dave Tompkins, David Toop, Rob Turner, Zakia Uddin, Val Wilmer, Matt Wuethrich
Images Ollie Adegboye, Guy Bolongaro, Lyndon French, Maya Fuhr, Amy Gwatkin, Seba Kurtis, Rita Lino, Mark Mahaney, Molly Matalon, Sean Maung, Becky McNeel, Savage Pencil, Annelise Phillips, Gérard Rouy, Michael Schmelling, Rosaline Shahnavaz, Sophie Jane Stafford, Eva Vermandel, Jake Walters