Band: Nahko & Medicine for the People
Date: Saturday, May 21, at 8:15 p.m.
Venue: Mermaid Stage
Over the decades, many songwriters have created music that holds a social and/or political message, and Nahko & Medicine for the People come to Hangout Fest in that vein. First, they plan to deliver a set combining rock, folk and world beat. Second, according to front man Nahko Bear, the group will also bring a message for “all ages and all demographics and all cultures” to take a stand to protect the planet and love one another.
“I think it’s a message that people have been thinking about for a long time,” Bear said. “I think that with this generation, I’m just learning how to say it in my own way. I want people to make changes in their lives that will affect how we walk on this earth.”
Bear and his fellow musicians will entertain and enlighten the crowd with cuts from their upcoming release, “Hoka.” With Crazy Horse as one of his main muses, Bear — a member of the Lakota Tribe — took this title from the Lakota phrase for “Let’s go.” This word can also be translated as a call to action, which is perfect for the group’s mission. For Bear, using this title is a way to perpetuate an ancient and beautiful language.
“It’s a good thing for us to be able to preserve Native American languages in our music, and adopt a title for our record from a language still preserved quite strongly in regards to Native American languages that have been lost,” Bear said. “The Lakota language is a strong language connected to my tribe.”
Through the track “San Quentin,” Nahko & Medicine for the People have been giving listeners a preview of the album. This song was inspired by Bear’s recent pilgrimage to San Quentin State Prison, which he undertook with a purpose.
More than 20 years ago, Bear’s father was murdered. Several years ago the man who murdered his father was coming up for parole, and some of Bear’s relatives encouraged him to attend the parole hearing and prevent this man from ever leaving the walls of San Quentin. In the days leading up to the hearing, Bear came to realize he harbored no anger toward this prisoner. He decided to make the trip to San Quentin in order to forgive the man who killed his father.
“I went completely on my own. In a lot of ways, I went against the will of my family,” Bear said. “If they would’ve known that I was going, they would not have agreed with that. When they found out what I had done, they were very upset with me, considering that they have a different attachment to the story.”
When Bear sat down with the man, the 20-year prisoner was overwhelmed with emotion. He provided Bear with details associated with the night of his father’s murder. He explained how it happened, why it happened and how he had lived with the memories for so long. He begged Bear for his forgiveness, and Bear obliged.
As he left the prison, Bear says he felt a burden lifted from his mind and replaced with a lightness. As a result of his meeting with Bear, the man was released and returned to his native country of the Philippines as a free man with his own mission.
“He wanted to reconcile with his father,” Bear explained. “He shamed his family during this whole act that happened 20 years ago. So, the story doesn’t end there. I have another side of the mission to complete the circle and go find him.”
Bear hopes this song will be inspirational to his listeners. His story demonstrates the power of forgiveness. Bear says sometimes we need to forgive other people, and sometimes we need to forgive ourselves. “San Quentin” is a call to action for his listening audience to “climb a mountain that they’ve never climbed before.” Ultimately, he wants his fans to understand life is much too short to permanently live with the negative events that come with living.