Album Preview: Nahko’s Unique “My Name Is Bear”

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Katie Pierce

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In all of the chaos of 2017, the world not only needs a break from the current events, but from conventional music as well. Nahko Bear and his band, Medicine For The People, provide an oasis from today’s conventional music, writing using many different cultural influences.  They are often referred to as an ‘American world music collective’ as opposed to a band.

Nahko and Medicine For The People released their first album Dark As Night in 2013, and they continued writing music, releasing albums again in 2014 and 2016.  Their style is unique; Dark As Night features hints of country, rap, hip hop, and even familiar pop.  “So Thankful” is a sarcastic hip hop/pop beat, while “7 Feathers” is similar to the style of Jack Johnson (“Upside Down,” “Banana Pancakes”).

The band’s frontman, Nahko Bear, began his journey into the music world as a teenager, where he left home in search of self-discovery.  He is slated to release his debut solo album on October 20th, titled My Name Is Bear.  In this album, Nahko focuses in on his strengths, and it is easy for the listener to hear how passionate he is about his music.

Nahko has pre-released two singles off of his 16-song record: “Dragonfly” (linked above) and “Be Here Now.”  “Dragonfly” immediately draws the listener in with a simple, yet positive guitar riff and a melodic vocal melody drifting over it.  The addition of percussion is subtle, and it doesn’t overpower the mellow feeling of the song.  In a way, it is obvious that “Dragonfly” is a song of resistance; over and over Nahko repeats the phrase “I’ll survive… this is resistance,” once even alluding to his multicultural background: “I come not black and I’m not white, both reveal me in my sight.”  Some parts of his chorus remind the listener of the style of Ed Sheeran, with intense emotion hidden behind simply played guitar.  The theme of protest through peaceful music is very moving in this track; there is a lot to uncover from Nahko’s first track on this record.

“Be Here Now,” opens with a satisfying guitar, piano and drum beat.  Not only is the song upbeat, but it glorifies many different instruments, using brass to add color to the peppy tune.  Again, Nahko finds a way to draw in the listener, not yelling his lyrics, but instead telling them like he would tell a story.  He treats the listener like a friend; he sounds like he trusts us.  This song is a well-crafted story.

If you’re looking for something different to listen to, something that may serve as medicine for us, medicine for the people, amid all of the different chaotic events in our world, then Nahko is the artist to go to.  I look forward to hearing the rest of the strong album that Nahko is putting out, and the cultural diversity of his music speaks to the wonderful diversity of not only our country, but our world.