Speaking for Themselves: Indigenous Resistance, Indigenous Reality, and Free Dub

“The collectives TFTT [The Fire This Time] and IR/IR [Indigenous Resistance, Indigenous Reality] craft a hypnotic, militant dub music intended to transmit a supershock to the forces of global devastation. But most importantly, for TFTT and IRIIR, ‘dub’ is a comprehensive and enlarged term that refers to their aesthetic and musical sensibilities, philosophical orientations and activist participation in African and indigenous coalition-creation. TFTT and IR/IR hold Audre Lorde’s wisdom as axiom: ‘[A]s we come more into touch with our own ancient, non- European consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes.’ However, in their quest to connect with ancient sources of African and indigenous wisdom and self-knowledge, these collectives focus on dub-centred, tangible modes of interpersonal communication and social action that facilitate presentday change and the defence of land claims” (Loretta Collins Klobah, “Still Dancing on John Wayne’s Head: Jamaican and Indigenous Collaboration, Dubwise,” Jamaica Journal, 2007, 30(3), p. 46).

Loretta Collins Klobah’s concluding comment above, based on research she did with these collectives (download here or read online), is probably the most effective one possible–although I forgot that I first tried to do so on this same site. I have corresponded briefly and intermittently with someone, or more than one person, associated with the TFTT since about 2007, and have never been able to sum up as well as her this incredible blend and continuum of poetry, music, books, websites, and videos involving African and Indigenous coproductions from across the Americas and the Pacific. I think that he/she/they first got in touch with me when I started to launch seminars, conference panels, and a book (hopefully out within the next year–only several years overdue) dealing first with “Black Indians” and now more broadly with race and indigeneity. I had also promised a review of a book kindly sent to me by TFTT, authored by one of its members, Understanding the Connections Between Black and Aboriginal Peoples, and I plan to publish it here since the Kacike journal, where it was to be originally published, is now defunct (and in the process of being archived–also a few years overdue).

In “Navajo Nation Steelpan, and Aboriginal Reggae,” a few years back on ZA, I featured a music track and a video to bring attention to the phenomenon of American Indian-Trinidadian musical connections and Aboriginal Australian-Jamaican musical creations. This is a transcontinental, Afro-Indigenous phenomenon that definitely exists “out there” and that speaks for itself (literally, lyrically, melodically, visually). Having said that, I won’t try to speak for it any further, and what follows is a collection of passages and links that I hope will help guide those interested in and around the amazing phenomena that are gathered around TFTT and IR, starting with this newly released video from Santiago Ospina, filmed in Bogotá, Colombia, which is accompanied by this blog post which provides background to the video project, “IR Project With Colombian Rebel Youth“:

The collectives’ various projects have taken them to Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Nova Scotia, Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands (and other small islands of Oceania), Tonga, West Papua, New Guinea, Senegal, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and US locations including Detroit, San Francisco, and the Supai Village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the American Southwest (Collins Klobah, 2007, pp. 40-41).

They articulate a counter-exoticist thrust to their work in the following terms:

“On one hand there’s a generally sympathetic viewpoint of indigenous people. Yet at the same time, the preference is for them to be regarded as quaint, exotic, and incapable of independent action without the aid of famous rock stars like Sting. Or they are dead or dying. The image of indigenous people as dead or dying very much suits the agenda of those who perpetuate brutalities against communities, especially if those indigenous people are on land that has minerals or oil or anything valuable that people want. People have a fascination with the spiritual aspect of indigenous cultures, but most of the time these same people don’t want to address the hardcore issues, such as indigenous land rights.. .They will exalt the indigenous respect for the Earth, buy dreamcatchers, and go to indigenous ceremonies, but at the same time, they don’t want to hear about land claims, traditional lands stolen, or indigenous activists…who are in jail” (Quoted in Collins Klobah, 2007, p. 41).

(Or, I might add, what I suspect is some non-Indigenous archaeologists’ implicit preference for dead Indians, who lack the power or ability to talk back and who can thus be spoken for by academic experts–some of them even willing to carry out a grotesque tug of war over human remains.)

Elsewhere, explaining the IR concept of coproduction and the need to counter exotification, they tell us:

“To extend the music out from the indigenous ghettos, IR has created a new model of partnership between indigenous people and western artists. This runs counter to the “ROCK STAR MODE” (i.e., Sting, Paul Simon) of portraying exotic indigenous people who are in need of rock stars to accomplish anything of importance and are incapable of independent self-directed actions but excellent for photo ops standing besides the liberal-leaning pop idols. IR runs counter to trend of trying to this exotification of the indigenous in our collaborations. IR works with indigenous people who live and fight in the jungles for their freedom, we also acknowledge and work with the thousands of indigenous people who live in the favelas (poor areas) of Brazil’s major cities like Sao Paulo. These include indigenous computer wizards…Hackers. The image of indigenous people being proficient with computer programming is counter to the current exotic image of indigenous people. IR also stands for indigenous reality, creating works that show the world of the indigenous as they really are, not the manufactured photo ops published in the mainstream press.” (Press Release)

Please visit the following links and resources to learn more.


IR – Resisting Ignorance

TFTT -The Fire This Time

On Twitter: DUBVERSIVE: @IRinEffect

Raging Blakk Indian Dub:  THE FIRE THIS TIME

Understanding The Connections Between Black and Aboriginal Peoples:The Links Between African American, Black, Native american and indigenous cultures, by Raging BlakkIndian Dub


Collins Klobah, Loretta. (2007). “Still Dancing on John Wayne’s Head: Jamaican and Indigenous Collaboration, Dubwise“. Jamaica Journal, 30(3), March/April, pp. 40-46.

Forte, Maximilian C. (2007). “Indigenous Resistance/ Indigenous Reality: from The Fire This Time“. Zero Anthropology, November 26.

— . (2008). “Navajo Nation Steelpan, and Aboriginal Reggae“. Zero Anthropology, June 17.

TFTT: Indigenous Resistance Tapedave Music Press Release–Latest in Series of Pan Global Revolutionary Collaborations from Indigenous Resistance.  (also here)

3 thoughts on “Speaking for Themselves: Indigenous Resistance, Indigenous Reality, and Free Dub

  1. Eliza Jane Darling

    This is brilliant, Max, thanks. I think another effect of the TFTT and IR work is to counter the convention of indigenous peoples as irrevocably rural, with all its associated baggage of innocence, simplicity, infantility, and backwardness; especially the association of the rural with the past (the UN development lit is full of this stuff). It’s not just a screwed-up view of indigenous people but of rurality too. There are shades of the old social evolution schtick in there but I suspect the trope weirdly serves certain neoliberal functions as well, the countryside depicted as an unused, unoccupied space inhabited by little more than obsolete and dying tribal types who won’t survive the urban millennium anyway – so therefore, up for grabs. It’s both a denial of and a justification for displacement via privatisation. Thriving, fighting, and very much modern and present indigenous societies across urban and rural space is an uncomfortable proposition in the great scramble for the global commons, and many of the enviros are as complicit as the resource extractors.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Many thanks Eliza, I like your approach to both the urbanity and rurality issues. In terms of the urban, and contemporary Indigenous cultural productions, Craig Proulx is a colleague here in Canada who specializes in Aboriginal hip-hop, and it’s really fascinating, not just his work I mean but the actual phenomenon. A few years ago here, in 2008, I had a little post about one of my favourites, Rapture Risin’. That the vehicle of expression for anti-oppression is urban African-American and/or African-Caribbean musical genres, and that we find this not just across the Americas and Pacific, but even in Africa itself, is probably one of the best, least told stories of “globalization”.

Comments are closed