Nahko and Medicine for the People, Hoka

American world music musical collective Nahko and Medicine for the People formed in 2008 have released their new album Hoka.

By Jane Howkins

   Hoka was released by collective group Nahko and Medicine for the People in June, and despite having been out for almost two months, it’s a shame to see that this excellent group still seem to be relatively unknown, despite Hoka being a very excellent album indeed.

First up – a little background information on the band. Nahko refers to Nahko Bear, an American musician from Portland, Oregon, who has a rich tapestry of cultural lineage in his past – with Apache Native American, Filipino, and Puerto Rican blood in him. Normally, race or heritage would not be mentioned, but it’s really a must here, considering that the music Nahko and Medicine for the People make features a vast selection of musical sounds and themes from such cultures and it’s quite obvious Bear is influenced by these things. Indeed, Bear has previously stated that one of the reasons he wanted to start making music in the first place was to ‘bridge cultural gaps’, and on Hoka, that aim seems to have been achieved.

The songs here are what would typically be classed as ‘world music’, which is often used as a rather strange, all-encompassing term for anything that is not completely westernised. Sometimes the term can be a bit baffling and it can be hard to describe just what world music is, but here the term seems to fit, with the tracks on Hoka encompassing a wide range of genres, lyrical themes, and cultural motifs. Overall, there seems to be more of a pattern of Native American concepts (with titles such as Two Wolves and Great Spirit being just two of the songs to make a reference to that culture), but that’s also mixed in well with ‘western music’, for want of a better term. Hip-hop and rap are melded with funky brass instruments on We Shall Overcome, whilst on Directions Featuring Joseph, an almost gospel like sound is created, leading to an extremely heartfelt and anthemic chorus.

There are a few sad subjects mentioned on the album, but as a whole, it’s rather uplifting, and if music is to be used as something to bridge cultural gaps, then Hoka is certainly the album to do it. It might be a bit different to what you usually listen to, and it’s rather long at nineteen songs, but it’s worth a punt, and if tried, a very rewarding experience awaits the listener.