Medicine Singers is a collective that can trace its origins back to a chance encounter between the Eastern Medicine Singers, an Eastern Algonquin powwow group and Israeli-born, New York-based guitarist and producer Yonatan Gat, who invited the group to a spontaneous collaboration on stage at SXSW 2017 after seeing them play outside the venue, before he was about to play.
That meeting led to a five year collaboration that saw Gat and the Eastern Medicine Singers playing festival stages across the US, Canada and Europe — and in some cases, bringing powwow to audiences and places that had never heard it before.
The collective’s long-awaited — and highly-anticipated — self-titled debut is slated for a July 1, 2022 release through Yonatan Gat’s Stone Tapes, an imprint of Joyful Noise here in the States and through Mothland in Canada. The self-titled album sees the Medicine Singers expanding into a supergroup that includes Swans’ Thor Harris and Christopher Pravdica, ambient music pioneer Laraaji, former DNA drummer and no wave icon Ikue Mori and trumpeter Jaimie Branch, who’s a rising star in the world of improvised music.
Medicine Singers have created a spellbinding and mystical musical experience, cycling through a kaleidoscopic array of sounds including psychedelic punk, electronic music, spiritual jazz and others. But the genre-blurring, genre-smashing approach is firmly rooted in the intense, physical power of the powwow drum and the Eastern Medicine Singers’ connection to their ancestral music and traditions. The end result is a material that celebrates and honors tradition while boldly breaking from its restrictions — or in the words of Medicine Singers’ leader Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson: “These two cultures can work together, and blend together. We created something that needs to be out there in the world, to show people how we can work together and make something beautiful.”
The self-titled debut’s second and latest single is the mesmerizing “Sunset.” Centered around an expansive arrangement featuring a modal-like horn line, atmospheric and oscillating synths, the Medicine Singers’ gorgeous multi-part harmonies, the intense and forceful powwow drum and a Robby Krieger-like guitar solo that slowly builds up into a noisy psychedelic freak out. The end result is a song that’s lysergic yet deeply mystical journey rooted in traditions that seem older than time.
“We play the Sunset song at the end of the day, when the sun goes down. Not many people sing these songs anymore: ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset.’ They were given to our drummer Artie Red Medicine Crippen by the great chief Bright Canoe years ago,” the Medicine Singers explain. “They are ancient vocal songs – a thousand years old perhaps – which have the name of the creator – Yahweh. You hear it throughout the song. It’s an ancient calling to the creator. ‘Sunset’ can open up almost anything. It’s a very special song – magical and powerful. It brings great joy to people when we play it.”