Jir Anderson doesn’t wait for an opportunity to come his way–he creates it. As a kid, he took a leaf out of the kitchen table and formed his own guitar, jewelry-making wire as strings nailed to a neck, complete with etched frets. All he wanted to do was recreate that sound he heard through his radio on the cool nights in Cochiti Pueblo. Rock gods like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Marley created the sound he would take countless hours to learn to recreate on his own. A little bit of luck resulted in years of touring with various acts and led to the creation of a new idea: the first iteration of Native Guitars Tour over a decade ago.
What Jir created this time was a stage for Native American musicians of all types to showcase their talents. This year the show takes an added twist. 2022’s NGT will present a three-day lineup of venues culminating with a multi-disciplinary show of music, dance, fashion and storytelling this coming Saturday. Some of Native country’s best talent from all walks of life will be there on stage and in the audience. It is meant to be a showcase and a place for professionals from all backgrounds and walks of life to share an experience.
As we talked, Jir mentioned the term “Native Americana.” I thought for a moment about this term; it sounds at first like something a Scottsdale art dealer would say. But as we discussed what this fundamentally meant, it seemed an adjective both interesting and apropos.
As Jir explains: “That’s what we created with this one. It’s what we call it, we’re calling it stories and songs of Native Americana and using Native Americana as a genre, you know, like folk or as they call it, Americana.” This encompasses modern music of all types, stories and art forms. “With the artists that we have, and even like, Scotty, you know, we’ve had this discussion many times, why not have our own genre, you know?”
Scotti Clifford is a great person to bounce ideas and have epic conversations with, so it is only natural that Jir mentions the South Dakota Oglala Native guitar impresario when talking about this concept. “That’s what I love about NGT is, it’s literally building a stage for Native America to tell exactly their own contemporary native musical story. Right? And because lately, I’ve been considering myself, a Native Americana artist, you know, not just Americana, Native Americana. Cause it’s talking about our folk, you know, and our history and our world and our teachings our mysticism and spirituality. You know, it’s all those things that make us so ethereal and beautiful,” said Scotti.
This stage brings you three venues over three days, each with a different lineup and musical focus. Under The Native Stars kicks off the event Thursday night at Marble Brewery’s great Downtown stage with a star-studded lineup of quality performers like Olivia Komahcheet, Darren Geffre, Jir Project and others. The newcomers get a showcase Friday night at Tractor Brewing with Rising Stars. This is the heart of NGT, as it takes new performers and gives them a quality stage to showcase from. Jir and NGT take this show as a moment to teach and mentor new performers, taking care to really guide them through the process as far down the list as going over what you need to bring as an artist to a gig. Building talent from the ground up is just one of his missions.
Saturday night the historic Kimo Theater plays host to Native legend Keith Secola, Lumbee/Tuscarora artist Charly Lowry whose band “CHARLY,” was selected to participate in “American Music Abroad,” curated by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Scotti Clifford is a solo artist; Sage Bond is a Navajo and Apache singer-songwriter who is classically trained and can be described as a cross between Iron Maiden and Amy Winehouse as she writes songs of love, justice, and MMIW. Opening the show is a local representation from Ailani of Santa Clara Pueblo. Ailani Swentzell is a self-taught singer-songwriter, writing songs from love to heartbreak. She is an up-and-coming indie rock-pop artist that records and produces in her home studio built by Ailani and her grandmother.
It’s about building community capacity, possibly why sponsorship support has come from none other than New Mexico Community Capital. As Jir puts it, “We’re just trying to create that community and let people know that, you know, it doesn’t always have to be about the money tied behind everything. There can still be community and the intent is for our culture, you know, we gotta practice our culture and practice that in our business too, it’s what we gotta do.”
Scotti adds to that idea: “ I think that’s probably the essence of the experience. Right? ‘Cause like my great-grandfather Frank Fools Crow talked about, how we’re spirits on a human journey, but it’s the essence of our experience, you know, that we share with one another through time-space, energy, food, laughter, song and dance. Right. That makes that the most beautiful and then that’s how I met you. It’s such a good time to just kind of refurbish or revitalize, just re-up everything. It’s been a long time for people and this is the opening to what we all hope is a good summer.”
ABQ’s community has long been the epicenter of what has become a Native people’s SXSW. No matter what you are looking for, Hip Hop, Metal, Rock or Art, the best of the best is in town during this time, a front-row seat to something you may not see every day. So come on out and get a taste of contemporary Native Americana; everyone is invited and encouraged to come enjoy a music, art and cultural experience. You can get tickets online or at the venue. Visit www.nativeguitarstour.com/ for more details.