Indigenous to perform in Cambridge

Native American blues rock band Indigenous, with local group The Inglorious Hellcats as the opening act, will perform Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. at the Richard G. Hardy Performing Arts Center in Cambridge.

Indigenous began in the mid-90s as a family band, with lead singer and guitarist Mato Nanji, bassist brother Pte, drummer sister Wanbdi and percussionist cousin Horse.

They chose the name Indigenous because they thought it was fitting, as the members grew up on South Dakota’s Yankton Indian Reservation, where Nanji still resides.

Mato Nanji is the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of Native American blues rock band Indigenous.
Mato Nanji is the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of Native American blues rock band Indigenous.

“I thought the name would be cool because it was unique and unique sounding,” he said. “I thought it went well with who we were and what we were doing.”

The group transformed when Nanji’s family members left the band to pursue other musical paths in 2005, but Nanji said it was time.

“Being a family and growing up together, there’s a lot more drama involved,” he said. “At the end, it was the right move for everybody. For me, it’s always been about Indigenous, so that’s why I decided to keep it going.”

He grew up listening to records his father bought, including The Eagles, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix—all of which, Nanji said, influenced the music of Indigenous.

Growing up as a Native American also played a role in his music, Nanji said.

“Everything I do is who I am,” he said. “It comes out in what I do, so it really influenced me musically, but my dad is my hugest influence.”

The band is now a trio, and Nanji’s wife Leah contributes to much of the songwriting. Indigenous has half a dozen albums, the most recent of which—titled Indigenous: Featuring Mato Nanji—was released in May and features special guest Grammy Award-winning Johnny Lang.

Nanji said he gets his inspiration “from anything, everyday stuff. A lot of time lyrics will come when I get back off the road traveling and I come up with different music ideas or melodies.”

Most recently, Nanji collaborated with Los Lobos frontman David Hidalgo and Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi Allstars to release the album  3 Skulls and the Truth on Sept. 25.

“It’s an honor to be on a record with those guys,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about getting that out. It was a different project I was able to do, and I really enjoy stepping out and doing something a little different.”

Nanji said he hopes the crowd in Cambridge feels excited about the music of Indigenous.

“My goal is to keep on making music and keep on doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I think a lot of people think ‘Oh, make it big,’ and I guess I’ve never really believed in that. I’ve thought of it simply as making music and picking up music fans.”

The Inglorious Hellcats

Local band The Inglorious Hellcats is opening for Indigenous this Saturday, an event guitarist Pat Schonhardt said they’ve been looking forward to.

“Playing with Mato—a guy I’ve admired for the last 10 years and all of a sudden we’re sharing the stage with him—that’s exciting,” he said.

The group has been performing together for about a year and a half now, said Schonhardt, who described the music as a mixture of rock, rhythm and blues. The band consists of lead singer and songwriter Jerry Ellis, guitarist Tom Edson, bassist Roger Hedlund, drummer Lane Allen, with Schonhardt as rhythm and lead guitarist as well as some vocals.

Schonhardt, from Braham, said he’s also written about a third of the band’s original music. The group has one original album that was released in July.

He explained the band name came from the World War II airplanes called the Hellcats, a fighter plane from the Navy.

“We wanted to have it be military awareness, so we all decided the Hellcats was a pretty cool name,” he said. “And Jerry, the lead singer, said any band name we picked had to have ‘Inglorious’ in front of it.”

The band plays almost every weekend, and Schonhardt said their fanbase has been growing rapidly. They’ve opened for national groups and their goal is to hit the Midwest on tour with a national opener in 2013.

“We are such good, strong songwriters, I have no doubt that we’ll make it,” Schonhardt said. “The band is doing leaps and bounds and we’re really excited about it. The bottom line to what we do is we just enjoy what we do and have fun while we play.”

Oct. 20 Concert

Indigenous and The Inglorious Hellcats will perform this Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. at the Richard G. Hardy Performing Arts Center in Cambridge.

Tickets are priced from $14 to $18. Buy tickets online at or by calling 763-689-6189.

For more information on the two bands, visit and