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'Music is medicine': Artist Christian Wallowing Bull

The Wyoming based artist is part of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and is playing three sets at Treefort.

BOISE, Idaho — Wyoming based Indigenous artist Christian Wallowing Bull has a soulful, baritone voice that carries meaningful stories of tribal life, connection and restoration.

The artist is playing three different sets at Treefort Music Fest. At Pengilly's Saloon on Friday, March 24 at 5p.m., the Co-Op Wine Shop Second Chance show on Friday, March 24 at 7p.m. and at The Warehouse Food Hall Second Chance show Saturday, March 25 at 2:00p.m., all Second Chance shows are free and open to the public.

His first album called "Warrior" was released in 2020 but he's also released various tracks and EP's. His newest album is a three-song acoustic EP titled "Warpaint." Wallowing Bull said it highlights the Indigenous struggle.

"It has a lot of grit, it's stripped down and that’s what I bring to the table at live sets,” he said.

"Warpaint" has driving acoustic guitar coupled with lyrics that create a picture of how the artist thinks and feels. There's no fluff. Wallowing Bull said one of the most important things to him is to honor his family, history and roots. 

Besides the release of "Warpaint" he's also recently put out a video for a song titled "Wallowing Bull." The video was shot by filmmakers Dan Lior and Noam Sol Azouz.

The video opens with Eastern Shoshone tribal member Jason Baldes speaking about the buffalo, how as a species they were almost lost and the work to bring them back. 

"It felt so right when I wrote this song to honor my families name and our cultural presence in Wyoming and honoring our history and our roots, that I would have an individual like Baldes speak as an elder, speak as someone who has much wisdom and spent time with our relatives the buffalo," he said. 

The video shows buffalo and open space that one would connect with a place like Wyoming, but it also shows the less seen side of living on the reservation. The video opens with Wallowing Bull standing in front of a gas station and the video juxtaposes pictures of wide-open-space with trailers, churches, old buildings and families.

He said this video is possible from the film makers who had wanted to use a song of his in a documentary and traded him by shooting a video. The video follows the concept of buffalo restoration and the film makers collaborated with Wallowing Bull to tell a story of Native modernity. 

"I have never personally seen anything as powerful as the imagery in this video for Native media and just media across the board," Wallowing Bull said.

Wallowing Bull said that Baldes and his wife look after buffalo on the Wind River Reservation. One of the biggest things Wallowing Bull said he tries to do as an artist is to get as many community and tribal members to be a part of his journey, "I want my community to come with me, I live for being able to represent our community, but also involve them."

Born on the Crow Indian Reservation, Wallowing Bull's father is Crow, and his mother is from the Wind River Reservation, where he now lives. He said his first calling to music was drumming. From there he wanted to be a rapper around the age of 12, and then, he said he fell in love with singing and songwriting. Although he was influenced and inspired by different Indigenous artists, like Supaman, an Apsáalooke rapper, he ended up developing a sound that is all his own. 

"As soon as I picked up the guitar I went in a completely different route," he said. "When I was about 12 or 13 when I first wanted to be a rapper, I actually developed the skills of just basic songwriting, learning how to rhyme and create that rhythm, and that thought of painting a portrait in music through words."

He said it wasn't until he was older that he started to pursue learning about his cultural roots and gained a perspective of honoring his ancestors and spreading the word as a singer, songwriter, storyteller. He was the winner of the 2021singer/songwriter competition in Ten Sleep Wyoming.

This is Wallowing Bull's second year at Treefort. He will be bringing his partner with him, Fiadh Vincent, who will also be singing some songs with him.

"This year I was grateful to be able to catch three sets, just get out there more," Wallowing Bull said.

As for what the sets will be like, he said that they will all be different, "it depends on what the day feels like. Treefort is an incredible festival and I'm really looking forward to it."

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