From traditional to power-pop, hip hop and beyond, Native musicians from South Dakota celebrate a vibrant and beautiful culture.
Buddy Red Bow
Raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Buddy Red Bow dropped out of high school to become an actor. He had roles in several Westerns – including "Young Guns II" – and served as Marine in the Vietnam War before making several country/western records that have people humming to this day. Songs like “Indian Love Song,” “Run Indian Run,” and “Reservation Cowboy” are gems that many country fans have yet to discover. We highly recommend remedying that as soon as possible, as Red Bow’s unique voice and style make it easy to understand why he was posthumously inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame in 1998.
When he was 16, Mato Standing Soldier recorded some demos with a buddy in Sioux Falls. They used a Rock Band video game microphone.
That unknowingly launched a music career that's thriving today. Known as Mato Wayuhi (or just Mato), his talent and drive have made him a successful hip-hop musician, spoken-word artist, filmmaker, and composer. With two albums, loads of singles, and a gig as composer for the hit FX show "Reservation Dogs," Mato's star just keeps shining brighter year after year.
KILI 90.1 FM
Tune your dial to 90.1 in western South Dakota and you’re likely to find a great mix of rock, talk, and traditional Native music. That’s coming through your speakers courtesy of KILI Radio. Broadcasting from Porcupine Butte on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the non-profit station was the first Native-owned radio station in the United States. Those that know are loyal listeners, and the ones that stumble upon it while cruising South Dakota often become dedicated fans. You can also stream the “Voice of the Lakota Nation” online anywhere.
Lakota Music Project
Created nearly 20 years ago by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, the Lakota Music Project is a combination of symphony performers and traditional Native musicians. The musical project was created by Maestro Delta David Gier in the spirit of racial reconciliation, a way of bridging cultural gaps through the universal language of music. The combination of sounds and talents makes for a unique & beautiful way to celebrate unity through music.
Paul LaRoche was born on the Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservation but adopted and raised by a white family in Minnesota. When his adopted parents passed, Paul LaRoche discovered his biological Lakota family in 1993. The joyous reconnection to his roots amplified his natural music talent, but no one could’ve guessed that it would lead to worldwide musical success.
“During my first powwow the summer of 1994, I heard new sounds and rhythms," said LaRoche. "In that instance, the idea came to me: a blending of both worlds, both cultures musical, the last musical frontier.”
LaRoche and his daughter, Nicole, were one of the earliest iterations of Brulé, a band whose combination of traditional Native and theatrical rock has gone on to sell more than 1 million albums. In addition to creating a renowned live show that includes traditional Native dancers, the group has made major media appearances, won loads of awards, and performed as far away as Saudi Arabia.
A mix of garage rock and power-pop led two Native brothers to 16 years of rocking as The Reddmen. Based in Rapid City, J. Waylon Porcupine and Miyo One Arrow formed the foundation of the band whose reputation for ripping riffs, soulful lyrics, and energetic performance gained them a dedicated following. They embraced the DIY (Do It Yourself) attitude, producing and releasing all of their music independently.
They didn’t need a formal record label to get their music included in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, play the Live Earth/Mother Earth festival (hosted by Al Gore), or receive press from NPR, Razorcake magazine, or the New York Times. The Reddmen disbanded in 2011 but members kept making music, especially Porcupine in his latest project, Friends of Cesar Romero.
(Video courtesy of Arts South Dakota)
Born and raised on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Reservation in northeastern South Dakota, Bryan Akipa studied under renowned artist Oscar Howe. As part of a visual project, Howe showed Akipa a mallard-head flute. Neither man would know where that would take Akipa.
Today, Akipa is considered a master of both making and playing flutes. He has released five albums, been nominated for a Grammy, and won several Nammies (Native American Music Awards). He’s actively making flutes to this day, occasionally playing with organizations like the Lakota Music Project.
Since the late 1990s, the band Indigenous has been making music, winning awards, and getting people to groove. The blues rock group started as a family affair on the Yankton Sioux Reservation with Mato Nanji and his relatives. Influenced by Nanji's father, Indigenous' first album and music video each received awards upon release. That caught the attention of B.B. King, who invited the band to play on B.B. King's Blues Tour in 1999. Since then, the lineup has changed, but Mato and company continue to release acclaimed albums and deliver blistering performances across the country.
Emanuel Black Bear
Born and raised in Pine Ridge, Emanuel Black Bear has been singing since an early age. This traditional singer/drummer and two-time winner of a Native American Music Award is focused on celebrating – and keeping alive – Native traditions, including song and dance. It’s no surprise that he ended up part of the Lakota Music Project.
Tiana Spotted Thunder
Haling from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Tiana Spotted Thunder is a Lakota vocalist who performs traditional Lakota and Indigenous music throughout North America. Her soft and enchanting voice is guaranteed to show you the power of her talent and heritage.
Gunner Jules is a Sicangu Lakota singer/songwriter/producer from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. His art is part of his vision to both reflect his own life experiences while building a safe, creative and collaborative space for youth in his home community. He creates, and he wants others to create. Together, anything is possible.