Medicine for the People:
Real music. Real Message. Real talk.
Prepare and fortify.
Spread the light.
Heal the world.
And keep hope alive.
Spirited thump-hop storytelling. Unless you’re familiar with Medicine for the People, you may have never heard this self-described genre before. But tune into their recordings, and most likely, you’ll quickly find that as proclaimed in their hit song, ‘Vultures of Culture,’ ‘it all starts to make sense.’ That is, their music and their message.
Established as a non-profit organization in the winter of 2008, Big Island- and Portland-based Medicine for the People travel near and far using music as their vehicle to foster self-action and healing. Their lyrics and activities make it clear that at the center of their mission lies the belief that the power of inclusion will always overshadow the walled-boundaries of exclusion. It should thus come as no surprise that their songs and performances draw you in with supreme force and magnetic charm.
Anchoring that attraction are the acoustic melodies and raw, penetrating vocals of band leader, Nahko Bear. Part Native American and part Filipino, Nahko looks as though he would be equally comfortable in the forests of Oregon or jungles of Hawaii, and those locales are exactly where he calls home. His musical journey began at an early age with Nahko taking gigs working as a piano instructor before he even graduated from high school. Band mate, Max Ribner, also embraced musical instruction early on. A Berklee School of Music grad, Ribner provides balance to Medicine for the People, offsetting Nahko’s soft (but oh so catchy) guitar hooks and commanding voice with punctuated horn blasts and sweet vocal harmonies. Percussionist, Hope Medford, is the third core member of the group, using a cajon and djembe to infuse their music with roots rhythms and vibes.
With so much of its focus on the message, Medicine for the People have naturally employed modern technologies, namely YouTube, to create a giant, worldwide camp fire. Have a look at the videos linked below, and you’ll see that it’s burning Big and Bright. Compelling storytelling, contagious beats and jarring vocals (think Jack Johnson meets Michael Franti on an Indian Reservation) all add up to make for an engaging experience for many. Whereas most unsigned bands struggle to garner a few hundred YouTube views and Facebook friends, Medicine for the People’s videos have attracted over 20,000 viewers, and they’ve already made friends with nearly 2,500 people on their still-fresh journey.