Drummers and dancers from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in northern Nevada are among more than two dozen artists worldwide who appear in a music video remake of a song rock musician Peter Gabriel first recorded four decades ago protesting racism.
Gabriel recently re-released the 1980 song, “Biko,” which the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer originally wrote as a tribute to South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who was killed in police custody in 1977.
“For us to be included in this project, it’s such an honor,” tribal Chairwoman Janet Davis told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “This song is still very relevant. People all around the world are still oppressed and the racism that once was hidden has come back to the surface. We have a long way to go.”
The video features dancers dressed in traditional Paiute regalia stepping to the beat of the drum, being pounded by a local drum group. The scenes were filmed at the powwow grounds at Big Bend Ranch in Wadsworth, about 30 minutes east of Reno.
Others who appear on the video include world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Cape Town Ensemble, Beninese vocalist and activist Angélique Kidjo, Sebastian Robertson, and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello as part of Playing for Change’s Songs Around the World initiative.
Tribal member Dayann Harrison, who has been dancing since before she can remember, said she was in awe of the video. It seamlessly weaved together so many different types of dance and song, from Japanese drumming to bagpipe to her own traditional Paiute style of dancing.
“It made me feel really proud. There’s a lot of focus on the larger tribes in the country, not just in the news but in history books,” said Harrison, who is seen dancing in a teal and purple dress. “This is a reminder that we’re still here.”
For Wakan Waci Blindman, a drummer featured in the video, he had no idea the video would be seen by so many. On YouTube, it has close to 600,000 views.
“We’re kinda way out here. There’s a lot of people that it would have been easier to get to,” Blindman said.
Blindman, who has been playing the drum since he was about 12, learned about the opportunity through a friend who’d seen a casting call from a Los Angeles group called Playing for Change. The group, which filmed the video, enlists musicians to shed light on global and national human rights issues.
He signed up his drum group, Echo Sky, and a film crew from Southern California visited in October for about an hour of filming. Neither Blindman nor most of the tribal members had heard the song before, but they learned the beat quickly and played and danced to a recording, which is seen in the video.
Blindman’s mother and 5-year-old daughter are seen dancing in the video. Music is a binding cultural thread in the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Blindman said, and is for all members, no matter how young or old. The drum, he said, is the heartbeat of that music, of Mother Earth.
The video, originally released on National Human Rights Day in December, was promoted this month in honor of Black History Month, according to Playing for Change’s website. The segment filmed on Pyramid Lake Paiute land was filmed on Indigenous Peoples Day, otherwise known as Columbus Day, Blindman said.
“The fact that this is being played around the world, and the world will see us, I didn’t think it’d be so big,” Blindman said. “It means the world.”
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