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The Halluci Nation Looks For Sweet Spot Between Lightness And Darkness In New Album

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, we'd like to leave you with some music from the DJ group known as The Halluci Nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: The group, based in Ottawa, is influenced by indigenous culture and activism. This past May, in response to reports about hundreds of unmarked graves at Canadian residential schools, the group took to Twitter to say, quote, "we need to cry, scream and feel this together. We need to sing our songs and dance together for those children," unquote. Their latest album, called "One More Saturday Night," is a mix of hip-hop, dubstep and traditional powwow rhythms.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: The group is made up of two DJs, Tim "2oolman" Hill and Bear Witness. We spoke with Bear Witness about the album. He explained that one of the songs called "Land Back" is intended as something of an anthem for Indigenous activists in Canada.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEAR WITNESS: The song itself was something that we've been working on while we're producing this album. But the move to put it out, it was really echoing something that we had done in the past. You know, during the production of our second album, "Nation II Nation," was when Idle No More was happening. And, you know, our groups based in Ottawa, and that was kind of the epicenter of where things were happening at that time. And people were telling us, they're telling us that they were playing our music at protests and stuff. And they were like, but where's our song for the movement? So we put out the song "The Road" to say, you know, OK, you asked for a song, this is your song.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE HALLUCI NATION'S "THE ROAD")

BEAR WITNESS: When things were happening in the Witsuitsan (ph) territories, we were like, we really wanted to do something to support that movement and all the Indigenous movements going on. So it was just another opportunity to say, like, we're here for you. We support what's going on. And we get asked all the time for people to use our music in videos and things that they make around these actions and protests. So it was just a way of saying, you know what? We're going to get in front of you asking for a song. Here is a song for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE HALLUCI NATION'S "STAY")

BEAR WITNESS: "Stay" was the last single that we put out before the album dropped. And it was in the same week as, you know, all these unmarked graves were being discovered at residential schools. And there was definitely a moment in putting out that song where it was like, we're in a time of mourning right now. Is this the time to put out an r&b love song, like, you know? And we went ahead with the release as we had planned. And, you know, there was a real reaction from people who were just like, I needed to hear this right now. You know, I just needed this happy song, this song that just - this feel-good moment. I think in the end, it did have an effect. And there are people out there that had helped in that moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAY")

THE HALLUCI NATION: (Rapping) Need time for the road, yeah. Need time for the feel, yeah. Hit your line up when I feel it. And I need to know if it's real, yeah. She like when I'm taking control.

BEAR WITNESS: When we were talking about how we wanted this album to look and sound, you know, those earliest conversations about what this album should be, one of the first things to 2oolman said is, I want this album to be fun. And I said, definitely, like, let's make a fun album, but we can't compromise the voice and the message to just have fun. So the idea was to find that sweet point between an album that's issue-driven and an album that is dance-driven.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEAR WITNESS: This goes back to the tweet that you quoted at the beginning of this. The act of getting together and dancing and being part of that larger human organism, you know, that kind of energy transfer and everything is so important. But we've missed a lot of that over this pandemic time. And to get back to that and just to be able to realize and put energy towards knowing that that is an important process, that that is a healing process, that it is something that we all need in our lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: That was Bear Witness, one half of the DJ group The Halluci Nation, talking to us about their latest album, "One More Saturday Night." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.