The OAI (The Original African Indianz)
The Lead Vocalist/ Multi instrumentalist of the OAI.
Ant Hatcher born Raymond Anthony Hatcher Johnson was born on April 28th, 1970 to Margaret Johnson and Albert Anderson in Harlem New York.. The Grandson of Harlem most Notorious and loved Gangster ‘Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson’. Ant grew up amongst a myriad of Jazz musicians, Actors and Artisans from even before his era from Louis Armstrong to Cab Calloway and more ..
The story of Ant Hatcher started way before he was born in the Roots of Amerikkka Both African and Indigenous. His mother and Grandparents practiced Native indigenous Spirituality from Africa and Turtle Island as well as the more modern forms of Christian/ Islamic Religions . His mother Margaret also called Lady M, found that she was a month and a half pregnant at the original Woodstock festival in 69’ . Which very well could be a primordial reason that he and the OAI are a festival driven band playing such festivals like Glastonbury, Womad and many of others.
As a youth Ant was passionate about acting, Music and wildlife (both animal and human) and the Spiritual life in all things. Imitating people and sounds he heard in the ghetto and in North and South Carolina where he was partly raised by his Uncle Champ and his Aunt until he was 7 1/2 he began the arduous journey to being a Bard. There were instruments laid about from an old organ in the living room, reed flutes, hand drums and of course the pots and pans which took the barrage of the young superstar with as much as he could deliver.
When Ant turned 12 he became interested in the Drums especially and started attending drum kit lessons at The Boys Harbor School for gifted youngsters where he would also pick up guitar and keys. Percussion came naturally playing Pow Wow rhythms heard as a child on and around the Qualla Boundary Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina..
His teacher was a talented Latin Jazz Drummer that would set up two drum kits in the class to play alongside synchronizing rhythms and fill ins, during this time Ant would jokingly start singing, this would be the beginning as a lead vocalist getting his early chops.
Growing up in Harlem in the 80’s was hazardous and there were instances of extreme violence, even the fact that he came from a Gangster family and there was family on every block wasn’t always enough to shield him from the reality of New York. Dedicated to growing stronger, he started boxing and martial arts at the Bathhouse as well as at the warehouse headquarters of the ‘Black Unicorns’ Harlem’s most well known biker Gang located on 111th street and Lenox Avenue; as his Mother was dating one or more of the members.
Even so Comic Books, Acting, Animals and Music were the defining failsafes that kept the young Ant and some of the other kids from running the daily gambit of the Harlem hood. ‘The OAI is like a Superhero Jam, where the heroes have something to do, and something and to say’, Heroes like Muhammad Ali guided our courage in growing..
The Dream of Performing freely in front of an endless sea of people, surrounded by Amazing personalities and Spirits ? Ant began to see the dream then to fulfill it, but in 89’ Ant Hatcher made an extreme decision by joining the U.S Marines. He did it not out of Patriotism but to get the Hell out of Hell, as he would put it. In the summer 2 weeks after graduating Rice High School he made it down to Paris Island for basic training. No-one could believe it, this young rebel Metalhead-Reggae Hip-hop kid, who since the age of thirteen was hanging out with friends in the village around Cats like the Bad Brains, the Ramones and going to venues like L’amores and the Ritz, was going in the service! This lasted about 3 years until Ant after volunteering for the Earth Wind and fire gig on Kadena Air force base had enough. Under the stage with tears ripping down his face he knew that no matter what, he was going to get out of the Marine Corps before his 4 year contract. This was to be an adventure unto itself and he managed to get three other dissidents out before him because he used the Marine Corps rules against themselves which got him out with a general under honorable conditions discharge..
A 3 year stint in the US Marines had served to remove him from the violence and poverty of his Harlem neighborhood – his goal at the time – and taken him around the world, especially Okinawa Japan; but its austerity had also dampened his spirit. After all, Hatcher was practically Harlem nobility – the grandson of the legendary gangster and culture hero Bumpy Johnson, Hatcher’s extended Harlem family included Cab Calloway and a plethora of African/Native American Characters with Character. It was a proud family, one that definitely did not do things by the book – anathema to the US Marines.
‘For a bit Ant began playing and recording with the group ‘I’ consisting of Mike Strauber (Bass), Ken Shaulk (Drum Kit), Crazy Brian Letica (E. Guitar) & Anthony Hatcher Johnson, Vocals and Keys) practices were in Brooklyn at Ace London Studios with other bands like Type O Negative, Biohazard, Life Of Agony & Candiria at the same time and working at a call center in downtown NYC. He was actively trying to be everything the Marines trained him not to be and yet had no clue where he was. That’s when he took a paradigm changing dose of mescaline!”
So in 1994 when a small vial of mescaline accidentally ended up at Hatcher’s home, it tickled a dormant interest. And opened a door…
In the grips of one of the most profound hallucinogenic experiences of his life, Hatcher exited the call center and left New York City that evening. Still in the throws of the mescaline realm, he contacted a Marine friend, rounded up an 18 wheeler rig and later two motorcycles and headed across the country on a 4 1/2 month journey to later wind up in San Francisco, during this time they met other Vision Questers and stayed on & around Indian reservations like Pine Ridge, Window Rock and National parks on the way. He partook in sweat lodges (Inipi Ceremonies) and rekindled his Native American identity, which is not to say he was ready for what awaited him on the “left coast.”
As Ant would put it, “San Francisco just blew my mind. I felt immediately at home – I was weary of the extreme liberalism because mostly I was still a Harlem street kid and US military veteran and didn’t know how to process the hippie parties and intense beauty. But I’d brought Amber Forest Green my shakuhachi, the flute I crafted, and began to make my way through the myriad of public drum circles that were seemingly in every public park in that city, especially Golden Gate Park.”
No stranger to instruments, Hatcher had been playing drums, flutes, guitar and piano since he was a toddler. He had always, unlike his Harlem neighbors, loved Heavy Rock, Funk and tight, well-crafted songs. But drifting around San Francisco, he began to focus intently on the silver classical flute, soon mastering rapid fire 32nd and 64th notes.
“I noticed in these public jam sessions that when I’d stepped out to take a flute solo or sing – well, it really connected with everything and everyone. That built my confidence. the public jam sessions in San Francisco – well that whole city is about Open Source isn’t it? I liked the feel of those sessions – they were from the heart, and as that was where it was for me. I wondered if i couldn’t put that feeling into some tight songs, and so I started assembling a band.”
Within a year, Hatcher had assembled the first incarnation of the OAI – the Original African Indianz in Holland- a nomadic [extended] family of musicians that began to bring the roof down at raves that were starting to be held in in Germany and the Netherlands.
San Francisco lead to Holland and Denmark where Ant played with a percussion unit called Djemboa, then the Homeless Revolution comprised of two D.J’s and two stage musicians which would take him on the way to Africa (Senegal, Mali and Gambia) playing with Tata Din Din and Pa Bobo (Kora) on flutes and percussion..
Still through all this England was on the Horizon, as everyone had told him that the real music scenes and the parties were in Berlin and the U.K.. The language had been a concern, but Ant packed up his instruments and some clothes, and through a difficult Border crossing finally made it to the U.K.. There he discovered he had been missing the mixed cultures and was pleased to be accepted by the music community who’d shown a great interest in his ability and comedic approach to life. Ant Hatcher would stay there for over 17 years visiting Abbey Road studios on and off and meeting and performing with many of the musical heroes he looked up to since childhood. Metal, Reggae, classic Rock, classical and more. Camden Town would be the home of this young Harlem, North Carolina Prince looking to show everyone that he had become a King, and Camden Town was ready for him..
Through those years Ant Hatcher was also known to thousands of children as he taught schools and did workshops on Native Traditional Culture, Song, dance Instrument making, and acting doing performances such as the Hemel Hampstead school with 40 kids with a play written by Ant about the greatest of all time ‘Muhammad Ali’.
2012 – The Original African Indianz released their new album titled‘ the Thunder Tracks’ ..An album which many who have listened have felt a ‘new’ energy yet totally ‘reflective & timeless’ an elemental masterpiece.
With blazing tracks such as ‘ Zounds like Thunder ‘ which include the backing tracks of Jazz Greats Cab Calloway’s ‘Za Zu Ze’ , and Harmonic Pastures (parts 1 & 2) a San Francisco inspired Flute Manage which screams into the soul like a screaming eagle and Down Sout an already critically acclaimed video on youtube now released on audio. To ‘I’ and Yo Conscience both blistering rock tracks which compels the listener to interact in inner dialogue yet send the dancing form in reckless abandon, this album has something for everyone and indeed something that everyone is looking for.