HIGHLAND, Calif. – There are countless individuals that go by the nickname “Short Dawg,” but there is only one rap artist known as “Short Dawg Tha Native.”
Raymond “Shorty” Galvan, 30, began his journey as a singer at the tender age of 5, learning Cahuilla bird songs from his grandmother. Galvan is a member of the San Manuel Tribe of Mission Serrano Indians, and is also part Cahuilla Indian.
“I am not really using the rez life to influence my music, but I am using my music to educate about what’s going on on the rez and what’s going on in the world, and how I see it through my eyes,” he said.
Thanks to his tribe’s success in gaming and multiple business investments, he has invested his income into his love of music as the owner of Voodoo Nation Records Inc., located on the San Manuel reservation near Highland. The first notable improvement to life on the rez was the implementation of running water and electricity, he said.
Galvan set up shop about eight years ago, and like other independently owned businesses, he has endured growing pains along the way.
The big challenge was finding a staff that equaled his dedication and passion for music. Losing funds to promotions and investments in ventures that failed to work out came with the territory. “You start to find out who is for real and who is not for real, and it’s a long, hard journey,” he said. “You have to be prepared to lose a lot.”
Versatility has helped Galvan survive in a tough business.
He is the front man for Dog Faced Gods, a band that fuses rock with rap. He described the music of Short Dawg and Dog Faced Gods as “underground.” For this artist, hitting the mainstream would be a byproduct of pursuing his passion for writing, recording and performing live.
Meanwhile, as Short Dawg, he is currently in the studio working on his second album, “Black Sheep.” As a self-proclaimed black sheep, he refuses to run with the herd. “I do my own thing and keep pushing at what I am trying to do, and hopefully influence kids to do the same and not be afraid to hold back from anything,” he said.
Even if his music has not reached the masses, it has caught the attention of leading artists. Last year he said that he had the opportunity to tour with popular hip-hop artists Missy Elliott and Akon. But instead, he seized the opportunity for Dog Faced Gods to tour with rapper TECH N9ne.
Galvan’s appreciation for a variety of music genres reflects his own diversity as an artist. His influences cover rap artists NWA and Public Enemy, rock groups Alice in Chains and the Rolling Stones, and country artists Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. “I listen to everything and I have got a lot of influences,” he said.
Both Short Dawg and Dog Faced Gods have gained a large fan base on MySpace and YouTube through the production of music videos.
The Dog Faced Gods single, “San Man,” listed on their MySpace page, belies the innocent childhood tale of the sandman who blows sand into the eyes of children to put them to sleep. Instead, this song reflects a more chilling tale and Galvan’s love of the horror movie genre. He dropped the “d” in sand in “San Man,” short for San Manuel, simply as a play on words.
“That came from watching a lot of horror movies and throwing the hook to a relationship with ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’” he said.
But Short Dawg and Dog Faced Gods are not the only two Voodoo Nation artists that are creating a buzz. Rap artist Ladee Cream has sparked the interest of Alameda Records, located in Japan. Galvan said they are interested in distributing her second album, “Heaven Sent.” “I am excited to see where the business venture takes us,” he said.
In recent months, he decided to open the studio to the public. This was made possible by a recent studio makeover that included the addition of state of the art recording equipment.
And as part of an ongoing project, Galvan and his staff have spent numerous hours in the studio recording tracks for an expansive music catalog, slated for completion by early October. He said the tracks are suitable for use in movies and commercials.
When Galvan is not in the studio, he enjoys traveling, listening to music and performing karaoke. “[Karaoke] gets me that practice of doing other harmonies,” he said. I can sing anything from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa or Alice in Chains to Stray Cats. I find it’s like practice.”
Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day for Galvan to pursue interests outside of the studio. Of all the activities that he has sidelined to pursue a career, he misses going to pow wows and dancing Northern Traditional style. “I am trying to figure how to put both things together so I can be balanced,” he said.
The studio employs a staff of five people, including two full-time music producers.
William Wilburn, bass player for Dog Faced Gods, works at the studio full time as the media relations liaison and booking agent for live shows. He has worked for Galvan for more than two years, and witnessed a noticeable employee turnover. Only the truly dedicated have stuck around.
“We take everything with the good and the bad,” he said. “What’s awesome is to see the persistence of [Galvan] and his spirit, his business, and love for the music.”
To learn more about the company and to find MySpace links, visit www.voodoonationrecordsinc.com.