Keith Secola is an ambassador of Native rock and roll. For more than 20 years, he has remained a defining force in the community -- a beloved singer, bandleader, and activist.
In December, Don Giovanni Records will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Secola’s 1992 debut album, Circle, with a CD reissue and a first-time vinyl pressing. The record -- a compilation of songs that were initially released on small run cassettes -- is a defining work of Native Americana and contains Secola’s most beloved song, “NDN Kars.”
There are plenty of rock ’n roll songs about cars, but Secola's ride is a different type of vehicle. It is symbolic of community, rather than individualism. “My car is dented / the radiator steams / One headlight don't work/ But the radio can scream,” he sings. “At that time the connotation of an Indian Car was negative. To me, it’s [a song] about the richness of being poor,” writes Secola. “The essence of the song is in the line, ‘I got a sticker says ‘NDN Power’/ I stuck it on my bumper /That’s what holds my car together.” Belief in a higher power.”
The song remains one of the most requested tunes on Native radio in the US and Canada. It neatly summarizes the imagery and character that continued to occupy Secola’s songwriting.
Born in 1957 in Cook, Minnesota, Secola is affiliated with the Anishinabe tribe. He graduated from Mesabi Community College with a degree in Public Service in 1979, and completed a BA in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in 1982.