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Some people go a lifetime without knowing their mission in life, without feeling they have true calling, and without knowing why they even do what they do. Nahko is not one of them. And that calling and mission has never been clearer than it is on Nahko and Medicine for the People's third full-length album, Hoka (SideOneDummy Records). On Hoka, Nahko's voice is strong. His mission is clear.
The mandate has been thrown down. "Hoka is a Lakota word, an indigenous tribe from the Great Plains, it is a call to action. It's what Crazy Horse would say when he went into battle, ‘Hoka, hey!' My call is to put action to the words that I speak and the lyrics I sing. Not just to talk, but to do," says the Oregon-born singer/songwriter, who is of Puerto Rican, Native American (Apache), and Filipino descent.
It's been three years since the Los Angeles, California-based Nahko and Medicine for the People's acclaimed record, Dark As Night and a prophetic nature comes through even stronger on its follow-up Hoka, which was helmed by Grammy Award winning producer Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucero, Dropkick Murphys).
"San Quentin" is a pivotal song in the telling of his story while "Make a Change," which features singer/songwriter Zella Day, represents the heart of this record. Another pivotal song is "Tus Pies (Your Feet)," which was inspired in part by Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda. Other guests on the album include Trevor Hall, Xavier Rudd, Rising Appalachia's Leah Song, and the female trio Joseph on both "Directions" and "The Wolves Have Returned." Hawane, a Hawaiian singer, and Pua Case, one of Nahko's spiritual teachers and Hawane's mother, appear on "Ku Kia'i Mauna."
The album cover, by artist David Hale, sums up the theme as well. Nahko explains, "It's a warrior dancer. The warrior needs to be strong, and the dancer represents grace. Through the merging of the two you get change through peace. You get Hoka."