NAHKO AND MEDICINE FOR THE PEOPLE
SIDE ONE DUMMY RECORDS
The spiritual journey of Nahko continues.
The new album from Nahko opens with Hoka, a Lakota word meaning call to action. Across the nineteen songs of Hoka we are taken on a journey with Nahko and encouraged to act, to stand up and be counted.
Nahko was adopted as a baby by white middle-class Americans, who introduced him to music via piano lessons. Tracing his family he discovered a Puerto Rican, Native American and Filipino heritage. His mother was still alive but his father had been murdered in 1994. Whilst this may have created a schizophrenic existence, Nahko has blended this heritage into uplifting and challenging music. The music mixes up blues, folk, hip-hop, rap, reggae and Latin rhythms. Songs like Great Spirit implores us to see all people as the same, whilst Love Letter To God begins with anger against oppression, but ends in a message of hope. What could be mawkish is heartfelt, never more so than in San Quentin.
It’s a song about the journey that Nahko made to meet the man who had murdered his father. The song starts with staccato guitar that is full of tension. He sings that he’s “come a long way to tell you this story – there’s no turning back now.” Nahko forgives him and is empowered by the forgiveness. It’s a story that few of us can imagine.
An uplifting album for our harsh times.
All words by Mark Ray. This review first appeared in Louder Than War magazine issue 5 July/August 2016