Like many rock-happy teenagers, Mato Nanji spent his nights dreaming of guitars. But as a resident of the Yankton Indian Reservation in rural South Dakota, he didn't have many places to look for like-minded types or fellow musical travelers. Luckily, He had all he needed of both right in his own house. There was his father, Greg Zephier, a lead guitarist who had played in the Native American blues-rock band Vanishing Americans. Then there was Nanji's sister Wanbdi, who took up drums at his suggestion, and his brother Pte, who learned bass. The young trio, which remains the core of Indigenous, their band today, played in their basement for years before their father deemed them ready to perform in public.
"He told us when we started that we couldn't play out until we were ready," recalls Nanji, now 24. "We jammed for years, and for the last four years we've been playing around a ton, first locally and now all over. We've all been extremely close since we were born, and we know each other's brain processing from all that time playing together and learning our instruments from one another."
Now joined by their cousin, percussionist Horse, the siblings make some seriously soulful racket on Things We Do (Pachyderm Records), Indigenous' fourth album, but the first to be widely distributed. At the center of the recording's dozen original songs are Nanji's breathy singing, tremolo heavy rhythm playing, searing, bluesy solos, redolent of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana.
"When I got started, my dad gave me a guitar and tuned it once, then told me to start figuring it out," recalls Nanji. "I started spending tons of time listening to his records, and have listened to and learned from a lot of different people, from Howlin Wolf to Pearl Jam, but my biggest influence is still my dad. And the big thing he told me is to find my own sound by taking what I like from everyone and mixing it all together. That's what I've done, and I'm still searching, looking for myself in there, and I think I'm finding it more and more."
WholeNote shared a news item about Mato Nanji
Jul 3 2000
Indigenous: A Live Blues Explosion with Mato Nanji (9/2/1999)
Mato Nanji is not one to brag. In fact, the lead singer/guitarist of the
hard-driving blues band Indigenous is so soft-spoken that it's hard to
tell he's backstage at the B.B. King Blues Festival, just hours away from opening up for the likes of...