Nahko And Medicine For The People released their new album “Take Your Power Back.” Nahko’s hard exterior, covered in powerful, tribal tattoos that flatter his muscular build are entrancing. He also sports a nasal, septum ring. It is sexy while still a tad aggressive. I have always been a big fan of Nahko’s music, but would I have judged him, if I only saw his image? Perhaps I would assume his look would correlate with an unpleasant harshness, instead of beauty, vulnerability, vocal complexities, and relevant, broader messaging focusing on the greater good. Judgement is rampant. As a society we critique others for how they look, what they believe, the actions they take, even how they present themselves. When we do this, we tear each other apart, causing extreme harm. I despise this behavior. For me, “Take Your Power Back” profoundly exposed the theme of judgement. Enjoying all eighteen tracks, multiple times to get a full breadth of the music, I am positive this wasn’t necessarily the intended message. Nevertheless, the LP provided me depth, personal reflection, growth, and gratitude. (I can imagine eye rolling, already finding faults in my touchy feely writing.)
The album’s opener, “Direcciones Taino” sounds Hawaiian. Upon deeper investigation, Taino is a reference to the indigenous people who lived in the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico pre-Christopher Columbus. “Healing Song’ sounds Native American. “Defend the Sacred (Ilocano Welcome Chant)” is referencing the Ilocano people who inhabit Luzon in the Philippines. There are five of these special interludes, prayers, spoken words or chants dispersed across the record. The purpose seems twofold. They are a nod to Nahko who is a beautiful mixture of Puerto Rican, Native American and Filipino. They also signify the band’s connection to meaningful causes, protecting and preserving both the planet and its people, which are highlighted throughout the album. (Instead of scrutinizing why these unusual, perhaps even quirky pieces, are incorporated, let’s rather, recognize the celebration of ethnicity and mission driven philosophes that makes this compilation even sweeter. I must say, the overwhelming negativity is a downer. Again, this is just my perspective. There’s no need to be critical.)
Nahko’s range is tantalizing. Each song surprised me with a new but completely mastered style. Modern folk is depicted in “Lifeguard” and “Slow Down.” Immediately I thought of Ben Harper and Xavier Rudd when I heard “Give It All” with its effortless guitar riffs, pointed lyrics and stripped-down vocals. Want contemporary R&B? Take a listen to “Dear Brother.” Feeling in the mood for a laid back, Caribbean holiday tune. “Bend Like The Willow” has reggae and pop melodies with a glimmer of Calypso. You can hear the blissful rhythm of the drums swirling among horns, while shakers and a cheeky tambourine compliment the upbeat percussion. (I have no idea if there are actually shakers or a tambourine. This is the vision I conjure hearing such a seemingly playful song. (The snicker is not necessary. Don’t attack my viewpoint.) The record’s title track, “Take Your Power Back” has funk, hip hop, and even disco influences. It’s intense, starting with a forceful rant. The marching band-like instrumentals lay the foundation while rap and choir segue are peppered throughout. “Honor The Earth” is a deep. Why, then, does the underlying world beats and Nahko’s voice remind me so much of Justin Bieber? Of course, Nahko And Medicine For The People blow Bieber out of the water. Yet, there are similarities to “What Do You Mean?” or “Love Yourself.” (I’m sorry for the comparison! No. I’m actually not. This is my review. I can feel whatever way I would like without denigration.)
In the live, acoustic video of “Part Problem” Nahko’s plays piano with a gentleness. The track is vulnerable and authentic. I can’t help that the music and Nahko’s demeanor are so attractive, that I crave his hands all over me. (Head shaking is rude. Stopping judging! We all have needs.) I was stimulated not just physically, but emotionally too as the song led me down a winding road, allowing me to create personal meaning as I meandered. My partner and I were both part of the problem. He didn’t see that. Nahko’s opening lyrics defined the commencement of our relationship’s demise. “What did you think this would be easy love? There ain’t no easy love. No, no. Oh beloved, what’d I do to us? How could have I lost touch?” My love definitely lost touch. “Somewhere along the line, I got disconnected started losing perspective, I know.” He left this world tragically, unable to accept or see his piece in the puzzle. Unfortunately, he blamed and judged me. He seethed nasty, belittling critiques that are so commonplace versus, “I’ll admit that I am part of the problem. Part of the problem. I’ll admit that I am part of the problem. Part of the problem.”
Aren’t we taught not to judge a book by its cover? For my biblical friends, Matthew 7:12, from the English Standard Version states, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Or let’s pull from a common child’s chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Why have we forgotten these simple lessons? Limiting judgement is extraordinarily important, especially now, when what we really need is unconditional love, kindness and support. I have always struggled with being judged but I’m experiencing more than usual for my decisions on how I choose to stay safe. Nahko And Medicine For The People’s inspiring music, provided a poignant reminder. I’m not going to care how you mistake me. There will be no more apprehension for just being me. I won’t accept condemnation. I think Nahko And Medicine For The People are telling us, this is the moment to live better, “Take Your Power Back.”
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