As a positive response to social justice activities of the past year, and meant for children and families, Portland-area musician Aaron Nigel Smith has produced an album that brings together 24 musicians of color — the 1 Tribe Collective.
Titled "All One Tribe," the album comes out June 19 — Juneteenth — via the late Bob Marley's Tuff Gong International.
For Smith, a longtime area resident who has built a great reputation in the kids and family music genre, it's a historical album.
"There have been lots of compilations, but I've not seen one with so many people of color on an album with one message," he said. "It's us putting something positive out there. Bring hope and shine light, and with all collective voices, share in the spirit of unity. (It) feels timely and monumental."
Each of the artists performs a song on the album, and the group collaborates on "One Tribe." There also will be a video made of that song. Smith sings a tune called "March Together," a response to youth taking to the street and Black Lives Matter after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
"It's a tribute to them, like passing the torch to the next generation," Smith said.
Another Portland artist, Robbi Kumalo, also sings a song for the album.
"She's a phenomenal artist," Smith said. "She has a rich legacy of music and with enrichment programs. She's a great local resource."
The album also was in response to Black and people of color performers being snubbed in the best children's album category for the 2020 Grammy Awards. Three nominees rescinded their nominations in protest. Since then, a children's music community emerged, via Family Music Forward, to amplify Black voices in the genre and it ignited a larger discussion, Smith said.
Smith has been performing for years, dedicated to children's and family music. He put out an adult mainstream reggae album a couple years ago, "In Our America," that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard reggae charts.
But, it's his "calling" to be in the children's/family genre.
"We're underrepresented in the genre, but not in the population," said Smith, who's a Rastafarian. "The taste makers have gravitated to a certain sound that they call children's music. But, this family space can be opened and appreciated and represented by all."
The album features songs about vaccinations, appreciating great figures in Black history, celebrating leaders and seeing the beauty in skin color (Alphabet Rockers' "Shine").
"The whole objective is to uplift Black and brown families and children," he said, "with entertainment and enrichment that is age appropriate.
"We want to give children music that has a beat and a sound that resonates with them and with a message that is wholistic. … We like to say it's family music; there's nothing better than seeing parents and kids singing and dancing together."
"All One Tribe" will be Smith's third release with Tuff Gong; he previously worked with Warner Brothers. He lives in Tigard now after years of living in Lake Oswego. He runs a nonprofit called One World Chorus and a production company called AYA World Productions.
"For me, it's a calling," said Smith, of the children's/family genre, which he tapped into after the birth of his first child.
"The first time I played a song in front of children, the light went off, it was a higher calling."