Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People

The music that began as a reflection of one man’s tumultuous young life has evolved into something much more – Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People are a band for the people made by the people. Comprised of residents of Earth from all over, they bring together a multi-coloured and multi-cultured community under a canopy of unity, solidarity, and a sensational soundtrack. This is why you should catch them at Byron Bay Bluesfest this year.

The power of Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People begins with its members. The accord so evident in their music’s message is possible because of the band’s colourful rainbow of musicians, bonded by creative expression. Beginning with vocalist and founding member Nahko Bear himself, he’d be the first to tell he you he considers himself a citizen of the planet. Born of Puerto Rican, Native American, and Filipino bloodlines, Nahko was inspired at a young age by the cavalier angst of musicians like Conor Oberst and Bob Dylan. Leaving home as a teenager armed with nothing but his guitar and a wealth of ideals and dreams, self-discovery was the name of the game, to be obtained through a musical journey of personal, spiritual and social healing. And so, Medicine For The People came to be.

Add into the mix Australian guitarist Chase Makai, whose relocation to Hawaii resulted in a chance meeting with Nahko, the two bonding over a shared love of music and surfing. Classically trained pianist Justin Chittams, an African—American man who has made music, playing drums in particular, drums, his life’s mission; much like Pato, an indigenous Chilean guitarist who was adamant his performances should deliver messages of love, joy, and respect for all people. Rounding out this beautiful blend is horn player Max Ribner, a musician who has said he is humbled to have watched Medicine For The People grow from the ground up, and string player Tim Snider, who as a travelling jazz musician covered enough ground to truly understand the ethos Nahko was getting at when he joined the band. The music made by these men collectively becomes a beautifully stirring mix of hip-hop and folk rock with a world message.

At a Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People concert, people of different backgrounds, colours, creeds, come together in an exchange of ideas and experience, usually because of a shared understanding of a particular message, a great example of this seen in the video for ‘Budding Trees’. In it, a multitude of people lip-sync to Nahko Bear’s lyrics, moving, swaying, dancing to the stripped back and wonderfully raw melodies of the band. All these different people in different situations are seemingly made whole through a shared understanding of the words being sung. It’s that uniform sense of belonging no matter what your background that makes Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People so special.

Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People began as a journey of spiritual and social healing, a mission which, nearly 11 years into their existence, has only had to adapt its methods and ethos according to an ever-changing socio-political climate. Conveying their message thus must be challenging for the band, but it’s one they commit to with an unparalleled joy and infectious enthusiasm, if their relentless touring schedule is anything to go by.

When travelling from country to country, to be able to convey the struggles of one place to the next could easily be misinterpreted or lost in translation – but for Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People, music truly is a universal language. The troubles and strife of the individual, the community and the globe, are captured in an eclectic brew of world music stylings to quickly become a language enjoyed by many, the thematic range ceaseless and the pride and joy that is captured in one band’s rapturous rhythms, absolutely priceless.

Why should you see Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People on their Australian tour without having read an interview with them? Because their music retains a unique beauty, one that once felt is difficult to shake. It has to be felt for you to truly understand. The music, ultimately, speaks for itself, and that unadulterated joy, that light that shines through the whimsical bells, triumphant strings and fervent acoustic guitars results in a wonderfully unique community who unite under a shared love of the Nahko Bear & Medicine For The People moniker.

They’ll land at Brisbane’s The Triffid on April 17, The Metro Theatre in Sydney on April 20 and at 170 Russell in Melbourne on April 21.

Tickets can be purchased via

Written by Anna Rose