By Crystal Harrell

On April 13 and 20, Blur took the stage at Coachella, and to close out their set, they brought out performers from the Torres Martinez Cahuilla Bird Singers. It was Blur’s first time at Coachella since 2013, and the band delivered renditions of some of their most beloved songs, like “Song 2,” “Girls & Boys,” and “Beetlebum.”

The band first brought out the Torres Martinez Bird Singers to perform a traditional piece titled “Bird Song,” honoring the culture and history of the indigenous tribes of the Coachella region. From there, the Bird Singers loaned their voices to Blur’s “Death of a Party,” and then returned at the end of the night to close out the set with “Tender.”

Performing at Coachella was an idea Chris Spellman, a former talent manager and producer, brought to Chairman Thomas Tortez of the Torres Martinez Cahuilla Tribe that reside on lands in Coachella and Thermal. After Chairman Tortez gave him permission to contact Coachellas Founder Paul Tollett, Paul really liked the idea and he is responsible for always having this idea back every year. It is the hope that this idea of representing the Native tribes from the area continues. The first two years the Tribe performed, they blessed their local land with a land acknowledgement and bird singing and dancing.


“It grew from the beginning with several of the other tribes becoming involved. Faith Morreo, aside from being one of the dancers, has taken on a role of executive producer alongside myself really helping make things look beautiful, honoring the Indigenous heritage from the tribe. In this third year, I received a call from Paul Tollett, explaining an idea which led to the magical opportunity to perform with Blur on the Main Stage for both Saturday Nights. It turned into something very artistic and beautiful. Hopefully we can continue to come back,” stated Spellman.

Faith recommended Derek Duro, the leader of the Torres Martinez Bird Singing group, who honors and continues the singing traditions. Derek is the lead singer of the TM Bird Singers.

“It was an exhilarating experience. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be able to share our culture and our heritage with all those coming to the Coachella Valley to experience. They came to see their favorite bands, and they got a little extra by getting a chance to hear us, because I know a lot of them don’t come to Coachella for anything other than to enjoy their favorite bands… I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve sang for the First Lady. I’ve sang for the dignitaries from many nations. This was just another one of those moments where I was proud to be able to represent our people. I was thankful for the opportunity to show that we are still here. We are still in the Coachella Valley. This is our homelands, our ancestral lands,” said Duro.

Faith Morreo is strong voice who honors sacred traditions for her family and tribal lands. Her late mother was one of the last fluent speakers who was teaching her native language. Both Faith and her daughter Kristen learned everything from her as far as the cultural ways and the language itself. Faith now works for the California Indian Nations College in Palm Desert. The school partners with College of the Desert and now Faith is helping to teach the Cahuilla language.

“The performance in itself was a very historic moment.  We had so much support from other tribes because there were millions of people viewing. It was a surprise performance at first with our first performance in Pomona and then the two weekends at Coachella. But they didn’t want us to say anything until the first weekend, until the first performance at Coachella. So it was really hard to keep it a secret. But once we did and we were able to let people know, we had a lot of online support from different tribal people, communities all over the US and in Canada. So it was a really awesome outpouring of support because I think we were the first tribal group to be represented on the Coachella Main stage. What a lot of people took away from that was that we were the people of this area—the tribal, indigenous people of the area—and to honor us on the stage like that, that was really awesome,” shared Faith.

“Being next to my family, it made it really feel like home, but I was a little nervous seeing how big the crowd was. But being that it was not my first time being on stage, I wasn’t as nervous. And with my family, it made it a lot less nerve-wracking, and it was just a really incredible experience,” shared Kristen Butcher, Faith’s daughter who participated in the performance.

Chris is partnered with Paul Walsh and Dean Smith in Natural Ancestors operations with an initiative to help Indigenous cultures and lands in the Coachella Valley.

“People are very appreciative, and exactly the reaction where we were hoping for to evoke, and that is people really being genuine and appreciative for the Native American heritage. It always makes for a great experience, but this was truly a unique experience that people appreciate with the culture of being infused into the whole performance and people’s nights and the reaction shows. We kept getting great reactions, people dancing along to the dancers. It’s really turned into that spectacle,” concluded Spellman.