As children in tiny Marty, South Dakota, brothers Mato Nanji (mah-TOE non-GEE) and Pte (peh-TAY), sister Wanbdi (wan-ba-DEE) and cousin Horse (Horse) discovered their dad's band equipment and extensive record collection. They soon got to work, practicing intensely for years...
"While growing up, the family was home-schooled by their parents; in fact, Mato Nanji was named Standing Bear after an ancestor, the great chief Standing Bear, who championed Indian civil rights more than 100 years ago. They learned to play instruments in the basement by listening to their parents' collection of blues greats. The name Indigenous was even their parents' suggestion, although, Nanji laughs, 'We were just kids and weren't even sure what it meant.'
'My father showed me how to tune the guitar and all that, and then he gave me all these records,' he continues, referring to a collection heavy on Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King. 'He said, 'If you listen to it and learn it yourself, you'll never forget it.' I had all these old records that were all scratched up, listening to them all day long.' It was in their home that Nanji studied and practiced the licks of guitar greats, including Lonnie Mack, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy and the Kings, Freddie and Albert. As he was exposed to various genres of music, the blues spoke most vividly to him. 'For me, it was the most in-your-face type of music, the one that hit me the most.' "
"Mato Nanji's guitar playing is like a howling wind."
A true prodigy, Indigenous guitarist Mato Nanji has drawn remarkable critical acclaim from across the country...
"There's a certain technical skill, yes, but every guitarist who has attained legendary status brings something else to the stage. It's too early to tell if the present crop of young, talented musicians will ever attain the prestige of Johnson, Waters, the Kings or Hooker. But if you had to anoint one guitarist as a possible successor to these legendary figures, it just might be Mato Nanji of Indigenous. His style is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but to hear his explosive, incandescent playing is to know one is in the presence of an original."
"Early on, there was Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Then later, Carlos Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Here's a new name to throw on the blues-rock altar: Mato Nanji."
"If Nanji isn't yet the next great guitar god, well, he's on his way. Yes, he's that good, seemingly able to invoke the spirits of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan just by picking up his guitar."
Indigenous ventured to Pachyderm Recording Studio in 1997, having been invited by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls to contribute a song to her Honor The Earth benefit compilation CD. Here they caught the eyes and ears of Pachyderm Records Producer / Engineer Brent Sigmeth and Director of A&R Jim Nickel, and soon after began the sessions that would result in Indigenous first nationally released album, Things We Do.
"It seems that Mato Nanji has sprung fully formed from the mind of God with his guitar strapped on, a warrior/patron saint for all the world's hot-house flowers and unknown geniuses."
No longer unknown, Indigenous burst onto the national music scene with Things We Do:
"One superb CD... this is one of those rare occasions when the music comes from so close to the heart that the songs and performances are unspoiled, almost pristine."
"Straight shuffles, rolling funk and lovely ballads in roughly equal proportion make Things We Do a don't-miss experience - a term deliberately chosen, as Jimi Hendrix seems the closest approximation to the scope and splendor of this music. It's a pick hit."
"Intensity is evident in Things We Do, Indigenous' label debut and one of the most faithful representations of what the founding fathers (John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, et al) had in mind when they plugged in and laid the foundation for the blues."
"The emotions invoked by this album are akin to falling in love. Not since the debut of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble has a band captured the true, haunting and beautiful nature of the blues."
"Things We Do has all the fixings for a pop breakthrough. Mato's solos are downright stately--as if being a wah-wah show-off would appear unbecoming for a young upstart. The result is an album with a comely restraint that is rare in the wanky, under-25 blues universe."
The Things We Do video, from celebrated director Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals), has won the American Indian Film Festival award for best video, and was shown three times at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
"Things We Do may be the most brilliant blues album of the year. The band from the Great Plains has crashed the big time by doing the Ghost Dance with Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan."
The first radio single from Indigenous, "Now That You're Gone'", hit number nine most played song on US Rock Radio (R&R Rock Chart). It hit number one at KLOS Los Angeles, where it tested as the listener's favorite song. It also hit number one at KDKB Phoenix, KLPX Tucson, KMOD Tulsa, KFMX Lubbock, and KKEG Fayetteville. "Now That You're Gone" stayed on the chart so long that it was bumped off via an artificial time limit - and immediately became the number one recurrent song at rock radio.
The second radio single, "Things We Do", hit #18 on the R&R Rock Chart. It hit number one at both KQRS and KTCZ in Minneapolis and at KZZE in Medford OR.
The third single, "Got To Tell You" hit #23 on the R&R Rock Chart.
"Perhaps Indigenous' early inroads shows that music can still matter in the age of big-business radio." In November of 1999 Indigenous released Live At Pachyderm Studio 1998 - an album culled from their Public Radio broadcast performance celebrating the release of Things We Do.
"Performed for a tiny audience at the renowned Pachyderm Studio in 1998, this CD is the best example of what Indigenous sound like live - the entire band frequently takes off into 10-minute jams to mind-blowing effect. An item of special interest is the cover of Hendrix's "Red House"; the guitarist's influence on Indigenous frontman Mato Nanji is undeniable. The production on this album is so clear, putting it in the stereo and cranking it up might be almost as good as hearing them live. This band is addictive, and Live at Pachyderm Studio is the perfect fix."
Live At Pachyderm Studio won the album of the year award at the 2000 Native American Music Awards, where Indigenous was also honored as best musical group.
In late 1999 Indigenous returned to Pachyderm Studio to record their latest release Circle. Co-produced by Stevie Ray Vaughan's oft-time songwriting collaborator Doyle Bramhall, Circle was released in May 2000.
"Indigenous refine and expand their already impressive sound on their second studio full-length album, Circle. These twenty - somethings prove themselves to be the most rounded of all the young guns. They embrace instrumental subtleties over rapid-fire blues scale exercises and emotionally engaging singing over howling vocals."
"Circle is an inspired blues- rock album whose tough, pungent blues licks and cohesive, moving tunes recall the later work of Stevie Ray Vaughan"
"Circle is solid and unpretentious, as well-schooled in its influences as it is earnest in execution."
"Truly transportive world music - Circle spills over with enough electrifying musicianship to satiate any lover of the modern blues."
"The critical acclaim for Indigenous has been as powerful and explosive as their live performances. Their lead guitarist is the next rock & roll guitar hero. Circle is a rejuvenating blast of rock & roll from a band about to explode. They're rock & roll's best-kept secret, although they're becoming a popular one."
The first radio single from Circle, "Little Time" hit #18 on the R&R Rock Chart and #28 on the R&R AAA Chart. It hit number one on KMOD Tulsa and KLBJ in Austin, TX. The second radio single from Circle, "Rest Of My Days" is currently #13 on both the Billboard and R&R AAA Charts. "Rest Of My Days" is Indigenous' most successful radio single to date: with "impressions" (estimated amount of people who heard the song in one week) well over 2,250,000.
"Rest Of My Days" has also achieved the first significant radio exposure in major markets such as Chicago (WXRT), San Francisco (KFOG), Seattle (KMTT) and San Diego (KXST).
"If you're looking for a band on the verge of breaking, look no further than Indigenous. The future is right in front of your eyes."
Searing television performances on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, CBS Saturday Morning and Austin City Limits have also helped introduce Indigenous to a national audience.
Road warriors, Indigenous continue on their own never-ending tour, thrilling audiences across the country...
"Mato's incendiary guitar work is a prime calling card. That energy has fueled a rabid fan base."
"There's a charisma to the music that draws sedate audiences to their feet and pushes wild audiences over the brink."
"Fluid as hot mercury, note-perfect, howling, Nanji was seemingly possessed by ghosts. I was standing next to '60s icon Wavy Gravy,
who turned to me and said, mouth agape: 'Oh my God, he's channeling Hendrix!' "
"Nanji's flying fingers seem to be doing a ghost dance with Vaughan above the 12th fret of his guitar, but Nanji is touched by a greatness that knows no direct forefather."
"To see Nanji writing out mind-bending notes, to hear and feel the intense, oft-times tribal percussive beat of Horse, Pte and Wanbdi, is truly a singular experience."
"Indigenous adds a zeal to the blues that audiences can't seem to get enough of."
The legendary B.B. King invited Mato, Pte, Horse and Wanbdi to join him on his Blues Festival Tour of 1999, stating that "Indigenous is a band America and the world should hear."
This in turn lead to openings for Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews, who said in introduction "They are a great band, they have an amazing guitarist - he's kind of intimidating."
In September and October of 2000 Indigenous joined the Honor The Earth Tour with Bonnie Raitt and the Indigo Girls. And, without doubt the high point for Mato was October 10, 2000 when he was asked to share the stage with one of his true idols, Carlos Santana, for "a sizzling medley of Bob Marley's "Exodus" and "Get Up, Stand Up." before 12,000 people at the Mesa del Sol Amphitheatre in Albuquerque.
"Indigenous evoke a sense of what it must have been like for rock & roll audiences to first witness Joplin at Monterey or Santana's legendary Woodstock performance."
"Indigenous offers blues-rock elevated to spectacular heights."
And the never-ending tour continues into a future bright and hopeful for Indigenous. There will assuredly be more to come; more to add to this ongoing story.
"Guitarist and singer Mato Nanji is truly a talent for the ages."
Check out the artist's website:
1. Seven Steps Away
2. Rest Of My Days
3. Blues From The Sky
4. Got To Tell You
5. Faults My Own
6. Little Time
7. Baby What You Want Me To Do
8. Moon Is Shinning
9. Can't Keep Me From You
10. Things We Do