Grandfather’s Medicine: Intertribal Powwow Music in Western Massachusetts (2017)

Urban Thunder is an intertribal powwow drum based in Western Massachusetts, which grew out of a group formed by Native students at UMass, Amherst in the 1990s. Grandfather’s Medicine, created by Cesar Centeno and Shahruz Ghaemi, explores the history of the group and the enduring presence of Native American powwow music in Western Massachusetts.

The original drum, Rolling Deep, was created for the Native community at UMass to allow past, current, and future students to connect. In 2009, Justin Beatty, along with another former member of Rolling Deep, was driven to start a new drum by the desire to keep singing, and Urban Thunder was born. Currently, the group is made up of a handful of men all living across the Pioneer Valley, while an extended family of members is spread across North America. Since their revival in 2009, Urban Thunder has performed at powwows, rallies, and other events throughout the Northeast. The Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center at UMass continues to be a home for Urban Thunder and other members of the Native community, and the annual UMass Powwow continues to draw together people from many different backgrounds, Native and non-Native alike. The group has also recorded music for the video game Bioshock: Infinite and the motion picture Crooked Arrows.

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