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Here we have the tribe of Randall’s Island, which populate densely the small East River land mass between New York City boroughs Manhattan and Queens. In the warm June months, the tribe celebrate its native festival Governors Ball. As is their customs of informality, the use of the apostrophe in the event’s title is forbidden. On Randall’s Island—or make that Randalls Island?–-apostrophes are shunned.

The dialect at Governors Ball is nominally English-based, a combination of an American dialect and primal noises such as “Woo!” plus its own native slang. These noises are meant to convey joy, strengthening tribal bonds.


The tribe’s iconography is rudimentary but powerful, expressing the exalted and vilified. The arc joining two circles symbolizes contemplation of the tribe’s music.

These monochromatic, bear-like creatures are condemned as criminals, unwelcome on the island. At the Governors Ball, they are publicly disparaged.

The dances of the Randall’s Island tribe are numerous and diverse. Here, we see rare footage of one tribe dancing bashfully and in free form to silence, decorated with the sacred arch-and-two-circles tribal markings on their heads.

Often the dances are in groups but some of the most majestic are done solo, the tribe giving the individual a significant portion of the island’s limited, densely inhabited space.

Rare, but just as fascinating, are tandem dances. This group of tribe members move circularly, twisting their bodies and high stepping.

The tribe’s native music is somewhat varied, but import Western pop music is preferred. Collectives and solo performers—often playing guitars and/or keyboards among other instruments loudly, sometimes referred to as “bands” or “DJs”—play to separated field gatherings of various groups of the tribe who bond through this music.


Many of these “bands” and “DJs” are given one-word names, fleetingly related to American English and making little to no aesthetic sense to the sound of their music. One was called, simply, Spoon. There were others: Outkast, Skrillex, Interpol, Bastille, Grimes and on and on.

Tribal identification through clothing fashions, masks and costumes or hoisted symbols such as flags are commonplace. Some are reflective of current American pop culture, while some recall American pop culture of the recent past, often referred to as “throwbacks.”

Finally, the Randall’s Island tribe assimilates cultural icons from neighboring islands, as well– Manhattan’s Puerto Rican Day Parade (which took place concurrently), Ellis Island’s Statue of Liberty– for Governors Ball. After all, no festival is an island.