Bassist Rylan Kabotie (Santa Clara Pueblo, Hopi and Jicarilla Apache) is on a mission, and it's one steeped in reggae. A lifelong New Mexican, Kabotie's band Innastate has spent the last few years building a following, touring, picking up a Native American Music Award for Best Debut Group, being named the Best Reggae Band in Albuquerque by the readers of the Weekly Alibi and releasing their first full-length album, Verde. Kabotie even earned an endorsement from Italian bass-maker Biarnel Liuteria. SFR caught up with Kabotie earlier this week and you can catch up with Innastate when they take the stage at Second Street Brewery's Rufina Taproom (8 pm Friday Feb. 7. Free. 2920 Rufina St.,
I understand you're into a lot of different kinds of music. What led you to reggae as a musician?
When I was younger, I started playing music when I was probably around 13. I started playing guitar and didn't like it. Then I heard Cliff Burton on Metallica's Anesthesia, and I really wanted to play bass—I didn't know bass could make those sounds. Not to put too much weight into being a Native person, but it kind of boils down to that, honestly; Native people tend to be into two genres in particular—metal and reggae, and those both make a lot of sense: Metal is pretty angry, and as far as reggae goes…it's music for the people by the people. As Native American people, we relate to African Americans as far as our story goes. Reggae is something I grew up with a little bit, my father being a musician, and metal was always my thing, but reggae became a thing because a lot of my family listened to it. I got into a bit more American reggae when we started Innastate.
Does that mean Innastate is political?
I wouldn't consider us a political band. I think our choice of genre is reggae music. I think American reggae has diluted down to basically party and weed music, which is kind of a bummer. We don't try to get really political with our music. We have a song on our album… about my struggle as an individual balancing my life, being brought up as a Christian, a little more on the conservative side, and balancing my cultural side, which I didn't grow up with. I relate it to myself being a Native person, but I don't think that's what the song's about. It just so happens I'm Native, it just so happens I was born Christian—how do I balance those things? Who am I through all of that? We did release a song in collaboration with Native Roots, Def-i and Joy Harjo for the Water Protector's legal funds up in Standing Rock called "Water is Life." We had the good…if you wanna say good fortune to go up to Standing Rock and we brought up a bunch of donations from our peeps down here. That's about as political as we've gotten.
You've said you want to alter how people perceive Native American music. Can you speak to how your work with Innastate can do this?
Whenever you have any musicians or art or film that is Native-produced or created, it tends to be marketed as such. When people think of Native American music, they think of it as its own niche audience and subcategory. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but it gets annoying. I'm a Native person, but I don't live in tipis or adobe, I've never lived on the rez. I think as Native people in a modern society, we have a lot more to offer as a voice, as a people, than just talking about our stuff. I think a lot of people expect for us to be victims in media, and the thing is, our history isn't pretty, but we're not victims. Now more than ever it's important for us to shed some light on the different types of creations we can do.