Nanji produces a vibrant show for small crowd

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

SHIPROCK, May 10, 2012

Text size: A A A

(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Mato Nanji, left, frontman for Indigenous, and his cousin Horse, both from Marty, S.D., perform Saturday night at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

SECOND FROM TOP: Lead singer Chucki Begay from Chucki Begay and the Mother Earth Blues Band sings Saturday evening in Shiprock. Begay and her band opened for Mato, lead singer for blues band Indigenous.

BOTTOM: Blues singer Mato Nanji performed Saturday at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock./p>


espite the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center not being filled to half its capacity, Mato Nanji of the blues-rock band Indigenous played like it was sold out.

And for those lucky few in attendance, the experience was priceless.

Nanji treated fans to an acoustic performance May 5 with music from Indigenous and cover tunes of Howlin' Wolf's "Tell Me" and Tarheel Slim's "Number Nine Train."

Joining Nanji on stage was his cousin Horse on percussion and special guests guitarist Levi Platero and bassist Bronson Begay of the Plateros.

"Hello. How y'all doing? Good to be here," Nanji said before striking the first chord.

After the chord finished echoing, Nanji was not afraid to unleash the sound and the fury from center stage.

The musicians rolled through numbers like "Got to Tell You" from the album "Things We Do" and "Should I Stay" from the album "Broken Lands."

When the first notes of the song "Things We Do" filled the air, some fans shouted approval while others filmed the performance with their cell phones.

During the song, Platero, sitting to Nanji's right, followed Nanji's playing before both men ended the song with smiles on their faces.

Nanji did not waste time with banter but when he did speak it was words of appreciation.

"Thank you very much," he said. "How are you doing so far?"

By the audience's response, they were enjoying the music.

Throughout the nearly 90-minute show, Nanji allowed Platero time to showcase his guitar skill.

The set list spanned Indigenous' catalog, including "Rest of My Days" from "Circle," "All Night Long" from "Broken Lands," "Leaving" and "Come On Home" both from "Chasing the Sun."

During a break to tune the guitars, Nanji playfully jammed the beginning cords of Ritchie Valens' 1958 song, "La Bamba," then stopped.

"Cinco de Mayo!" someone yelled from the audience.

After the playful exchange, they launched into Jimi Hendrix's "Angel," a song Nanji said the musicians learned back stage.

"Hopefully it'll turn out but we'll try it for you," he said.

When it came to performing the encore song, "Red House," another Hendrix tune, Nanji showed his guitar work and the audience shouted with approval.

Once again, people broke out their cell phones to capture the moment.

Opening the show was Chucki Begay and the Mother Earth Blues Band.

Begay's vocal intensity was accompanied by the electric guitar of Richard Anderson Jr.

Anderson steered through solos while his nephew Cisco Anderson provided a steady rhythm then carried his own when playing lead.

"It's amazing to hear him play," Begay said about Cisco.

Their set included a mixture of original songs and covers of "Over the Rainbow," B.B. King's "Thrill is Gone," Bob Dylan's "All Around the Watchtower," and Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

When it came to singing "Amazing Grace," Begay sang it in English then in Navajo.

Begay paused for a moment to share her thoughts about the proposed Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement Agreement.

"I want to dedicate this to the people trying to fight to keep our water rights because that is Diné water," she said before launching into an original number, "The Power of the Rain," a song that describes the characteristics of the female and male rain.

Begay's tambourine playing sounded similar to rain falling onto the ground while Anderson locked into the moment with fierce guitar playing.

With playing like that, Anderson seemed to be tapping into the higher ground of his instrument.

In the end, Anderson had a message for supporters of the water settlement: "No. You can't have our Navajo water."

Before closing their set, Begay and Anderson unleashed their sound one more time by covering Black Label Society's "In This River."

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Newcomb High student council's community service projects and field-trip expenses.

In addition to the Shiprock show, Nanji also performed in Window Rock. The show in Tuba City was cancelled due to technical difficulties.