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..Indigenous - Rocks The Bay* November 18th 10/19/ 99 San Francisco
Mato Nanji - Lead Vocals, Guitar--- brother Pte on - Bass Guitar--- sister Wanbdi on - Drums and cousin Horse on Congas
Mato Nanj
They started out as young kids on the Yankton Indian Reservation, practicing to Big Head Todd and the Monsters records. But times have changed. This summer Indigenous played B.B. King's Blues Festival at Concord Pavilion . The band's tune "Things We Do" is getting airplay on national radio and the video for the single was shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival. And Indigenous returns to play Slim's in San Francisco. These are some big accomplishments for a band featuring members who are in their early 20s and that was only allowed to play in public after practicing at home for two years. But Indigenous is not your ordinary band. It is composed of two brothers, Mato Nanji (Standing Bear) and Pte (Little Buffalo Man), their sister Wanbdi (Good Eagle Woman), and their cousin Horse. All are members of the Nakota Indian Nation, and Mato, Wanbdi and Pte are the children of Native American artist/activist/musician Greg Zephier, who took the kids to American Indian Movement rallies and installed in them a strong respect for their culture. After Mato discovered his father's drum kit in the basement, Zephier and his wife picked out an instrument for each child to play. Mato became the band's lead guitarist and vocalist, Pte was put on bass, Wanbdi started pounding the drums and their cousin Horse became the band's percussionist. The young kids jammed to Stevie Ray Pte on - BassVaughn and Big Head Todd records, until they created their own vibrant mix of blues, rock and indigenous roots music. The band -- guitarist and singer Mato Nanji ("Standing Bear"), drummer Wanbdi ("Good Eagle Woman"), bassist Pte ("Little Buffalo Man") and percussionist Horse -- are members of the Nakota Nation. Not only is the band connected by its Native American heritage, but Mato Nanji, Pte and Wandbi are siblings, and Horse is their cousin. Playing music together for almost a decade, Pte said the group's first three years were spent mastering their craft in jam sessions. "I was only 15, my sister was 14 and my brother was 12, when we started playing," Mato said from his South Dakota home. "My dad had a big record collection, and we'd listen to a lot of blues, old rock, Santana, Jimi Hendrix and a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Yes, we did practice to Big Head Todd, and we still listen to a lot of their music." "Blues was probably the music that really hit us the most," Mato added. "I wanted to play like Buddy Guy and get that same kind of feel, but I also wanted to add a little bit of rock, to make it a blues-rock thing. We'd just practice at home, because my dad wouldn't let us play live for two years. When we started out, we'd only listen to records - we had never even seen any band perform live." Zephier eventually booked the band across the sister Wanbdi on - Drumscountry, and it wasn't long before Indigenous was playing 150-200 shows a year. The family not only play the club circuit; they also perform at a wide variety of festivals, casinos and singer/songwriter weekends. While touring, Indigenous was approached by major record labels, but they decided to sign with the independent Pachyderm. Last year the band released the CD "Things We Do," a powerful debut album featuring Mato's blistering guitar work and the band's soulful vocals, sizzling rock tunes and hard-hitting percussion work. But nothing can match the power of a live Indigenous show, because those who were paying attention were blown away by Nanji's skills. If Lang's forefathers are predominantly Albert King and Eric Clapton, and Shepherd's Stevie Ray Vaughn and Duane Allman, Nanji's are Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. His work is explosive and fiery, full of psychedelic, note-bending fury. Playing a sampling of tunes from Indigenous' debut album, "Things We Do," the tall, imposing Nanji also sang, with a deep, throaty baritone. The set built to a climax, with the small crowd on its feet and exhorting everHorse on Congas y screaming note, culminating with Nanji playing his guitar with his teeth, a la Hendrix. And then it was over; Nanji thanked the crowd quickly and was gone. After a meaty, two-hour Indigenous show you go home thinking wow! it's only going to get better.

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By Randy Cohen

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