“A SPOONFUL OF NAHKO” – CHARLIE HUNTON

Music is his medicine. Turns out, it’s my medicine too. I wasn’t the

only one. The whole island felt it. The slight ripple on the surface

becoming a wave, ‘making the movement move’. It tastes all kinds

of sweet. A spoonful of Nahko.

It is the day after Nyepi* and ‘Nahko Bear’ is almost famous.

‘Medicine for the People’ – the band he fronts – is about to headline

the Bali spirit festival and offer up their healing sound to the island

of the Gods. Nahko will be talked about, booked, photographed,

facebooked, friended, lusted after and talked about some more…

and then booked out and sold out again and again. But he doesn’t

know any of this right now. Right now he just knows what he wants

– some good food and some honest lyrics. He heads to the CLEAR

cafe in Ubud, where I am also reaching for some words after an

insightful day of silence.

The way I first meet Nahko is, well, more than a little strange. Logging

into facebook for the first time in a couple of days I click on

a link a friend from Australia has sent me. Sipping on my kelapa

muda, I watch the music clip, headphones on, casually curious.

What appears before me: a tapping foot, shaved head (well, half of

it at least), overalls, earrings, guitar, in the back of an old pick up,

parked somewhere in Hawaii. A voice I wasn’t expecting. And a

sound I’d never heard before. He was bringing it, gentle and strong,

all at the same time. Suddenly he had my attention. And I was in.

This is the first time I’d heard of Nahko. The song was ‘Black as

the Night’. The first line of the song says it all. “I believe in the good

things coming, coming, coming …” Hell yes. I had no idea how true

those words would be. No idea of the swell, the set that he was

about to bring to these salty shores.

Somewhere between the licks and the poetry something dawns on

me: he is not entirely unattractive. The clear, dark eyes; bit of mis

 

chief

there, that’s for sure. Kind of ripped. Let’s say defined, it’s more

polite. Some interesting tattoos. Skin painted with stories. Who is

this guy? I let out a sigh and flick my eye towards the door as some

 

one

comes in. I do a double take. Really look. Then look back at the

clip. Then look again. The tatts confirm it. They are the one and the

same. Nahko heads straight upstairs. Singlemindedly, you could say.

With focus. A man on a mission almost.

My focus goes straight to my pen. ‘Fuck the silver lining / My clouds

got rainbows’. Breakfast just got a whole lot more interesting.

I climb the stairs and give him the words. He is still anonymous

enough to find this quirky behaviour charming. He gives me the

word ‘synchronicity’ and the time – to his gig at Jazz Cafe in Ubud in

two days time. I go. And so it begins.

‘I believe in the good things coming…. come in come in come in.’

Nahko Bear is at that crossroads. Where the future is being pulled

into the present. Where the now is created by the past. Where

ancestors must be respected and youth educated. Nahko is a man

of the earth. A quarter Apache, a fourth Puerto Rican and the rest

Filipino. All native. He holds the weight of the world on the lightness

of his laugh. Ganesh definitely had something to do with this one.

His music – which he calls ‘spirited redemption music’ – talks of

cultural wounding, environmental wrongs and social injustice. And

then, in the blink of a third eye and the wink of a dimple, he talks

about change, about cures and what will be. His songs are woven

with beautiful echoes and glorious hope. Watching Nahko & Medicine

for the People play live is an experience not to be missed. The

beats compel you to join in the rhythm. Nahko ignites epiphanies in

the audience; dancing their way to sweaty transcendence. You get

addicted to his drug. It’s like aural serotonin. It creeps over your face

like a smile and makes you proud to be human.

Music is his medicine. Turns out, it’s my medicine too. Because

something changed within me while he was here, his music the

soundtrack in a way I can’t explain. I wasn’t the only one. The whole

island felt it. The slight ripple on the surface becoming a wave,

‘making the movement move’. It tastes all kinds of sweet. A spoonful

of Nahko.

And we might not have to wait that long for the next dose. Word on

the jalan is that the ‘dark little cinnamon man’ is back in Bali to play

a gig somewhere green and lush on New Year’s Eve with someone

whose name rhymes with Psychael Shanti. You heard it here first.

Oh yeah. I believe in the good things coming, coming, coming ….

* Balinese day of silence

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