STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
Indigenous, led by guitarist and vocalist Mato Nanji, released “Time Is Coming” (Blues Bureau Int’l) last year. It is the 10th CD for Indigenous since their debut “Things We Do” (Pachyderm, 1998) put them on the map.
Yet this is a very different Indigenous than it was back then. The original band included Nanji’s 2 siblings and a cousin. They recorded 4 more CDs before deciding to disband and follow their own individual musical paths.
“Playing with my family for 10 years was a lot of fun, but it was time to grow and keep moving forward,” said Nanji, who held onto the band name Indigenous.
Nanji spent the next several years working with various artists. He also performed on the Experience Hendrix Tour, where he met David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars); the three collaborated and released “3 Skulls and the Truth” (Blues Bureau Int’l, 2012).
“Time Is Coming” features Nanji with a new band. Nanji invited The Plateros – the blues-rock trio from New Mexico featuring brothers Levi and Douglas Platero and Bronson Begay – to join Indigenous. In a phone interview from his home in South Dakota, Nanji discussed working with his new bandmates.
“I’ve known Levi and his dad Murphy since Levi… was first starting out as a guitar player. He was like 14 or 15. He was a great guitar player then and even better now,” said Nanji. “They would come and do some tours, open for us, and I’ve kept in touch with them over the years. So finally… after the last tour we did together… we jammed together a lot (and) it felt really good, so I figured, ‘well, why don’t I just ask these guys if they want to come out on tour with me as Indigenous?,’ and I’m glad they accepted.”
Nanji said that although he is still the bandleader, playing with different musicians brings something new into the mix.
“I think they kind of bring in a different kind of feel and a different kind of take on what’s already there and what (I’ve) been doing. I feel like they really fit well, we all fit well together… I think we know our places in the band, so it feels really good. We complement each other really well. And it’s also great to have young guys out there with me, a lot younger [he laughed]; you know, they’re like half my age. It feels really good to see young players like that coming up and we (can) work together because they can still go out and do their thing when I’m not doing stuff.”
Nanji also stated that with the new band he is better able to utilize the songs that he writes with his wife, Leah.
“We’ve actually been writing songs for a long time, since me and my siblings were together. Maybe a few of those songs made it on some old records, but I think that (now we have) more of an opportunity to put the music out that we’re writing together. It just feels really good to have somebody right there with you that you can work with and communicate really well with as a songwriting partner, For me it’s something really special.”
Nanji elaborated about his songwriting and about playing the blues.
“I like to write music and songs… with a good feeling rather than having a depressing feeling about anything, because really, music is about trying to get the fans feeling good about what’s going on in their lives, and make them feel better about a certain thing that’s going on.
“One of the reasons why I really love the blues is because of the way it started out. From my understanding and what I’ve gotten from it – from B.B. King and Buddy Guy and different people – they did the music because it made them feel better about the situation that they were in. It made them feel really good to sing, or play, or whatever it was, so I feel like that’s what really drew me to that type of music.”
Nanji, who started in the music business at a young age, is now a role model to younger artists, including his own bandmates. Yet he said he doesn’t give them too much advice; he chooses to lead by example.
“I always just feel like if you do what you feel and you’re true in what you’re doing and you stay true to that and keep making the music that you want and what you feel… there’s always going to be music fans that are going to want to hear it. When you write music and you make music, it’s really a piece of who you are, and you put it out there and I really think a lot of music fans (are) able to connect with that because they understand… where you’re coming from.”
He added: It’s really about the music for me. That’s all it’s about.”
Indigenous will be sharing the stage at Ardmore Music Hall with young blues phenom Selwyn Birchwood.
“Yeah, I think he’s great, man,” said Nanji of Birchwood. “I heard some of his stuff. It’s cool. It’s going to be a lot of fun, you know?”
IF YOU GO
What: Indigenous and Selwyn Birchwood
When: Friday, June 5. Showtime 8:00 pm; doors open at 7:00 pm
Where: The Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, PA
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 day of show
Contact: www.ardmoremusic.com and 610-649-8389
Artists’ Websites: www.indigenousrocks.com and www.selwynbirchwood.com