with Nico Wind
In our daily conversations, the phrase “in a good way” pops up again and again. For us, approaching life and its challenges “in a good way” has rich significance. Among other things, living “in a good way” includes approaching any task – large or small – in beauty and harmony. You can see it in everyday objects we create – pottery, blankets, baskets. These are infused with an artfulness that goes beyond simple utility.
Many contemporary native musicians have worked to incorporate this indigenous aesthetic into their art. The results can be beautiful and surprising.
Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble
Here’s Nico Wind, with Tribal Rhythms, to tell us more.
Picture a buckskin bag, decorated with colorful beadwork and filled with native music of every kind. Know that within this container is one of the most powerful gifts human beings possess: the capacity to express humanity’s essence – with sound. At the base of native sound is the wisdom of tradition, the beat of the past. In its depths can be found an infinite variety of the arts – fine and spoken, melodious and colorful. Explore an endless variety of possibilities, finally drawing out the fusion of jazz, rock, and native american chants of honga chee edda – Jim Pepper.
Witchi Tai To
Jim Pepper’s Powwow
Embryo (distributed by Atlantic Records)
Pepper’s anthem, “Witchi Tai To,” was derived from a peyote healing song, a chant of his grandfather’s. His grainy, soulful voice and heartfelt saxophone helped Jim Pepper create this crossover hit on both the jazz and top 40 radio charts in the early 70’s. Soon, pepper, a Kaw and Creek Indian, could be heard around the world.
Comin’ and Goin’
Songs like “Comin’ and Goin'” demonstrate Pepper’s personal imprint, his artistic expression that won’t allow itself to be tied down or defined. It is the reason his music is considered true art, especially in Europe where it has received its widest acceptance. Pepper is a leading innovator, an artist whose music, in the words of his mother, Floy Pepper, comes from the earth and is joyfully flung to the four directions.
Reaching into the musical bag of native sounds once again, near the space where jim Pepper rests is a friend of his, Joy Harjo, of the Creek, or Muskogee, tribe. With her band, poetic justice, Harjo’s rhythmic chanting and song is a fusion of poetry, music, politics and spirituality. Elements of jazz, rock, blues, and reggae are woven throughout the album. The idea of survival and continuance is a central theme.
Publishing/Muskoke Nation, USA
Natay is a survivor.
The SOAR Corporation
A rough gem in the musical bag of contemporary native music. Relocated from the Navajo reservation, this young dine’ rap artist in broad strokes of color designed to attract the attention of indigenous youth of the inner cities – to make them think.
Natay, an ex-gangbanger, offers solace without profanity – and with positive lyrics that don’t degrade any race or sex. Without condoning the lifestyle, Natay asserts that he chooses to give a voice to his native brothers and sisters who are caught up in the violence of the streets.
Nadjiwan, from the Ojibway tribe in Ontario, Canada, offers a diverse and eclectic musical style with a variety of worldly rhythms.
This song, “Nagamo,” is from a cd entitled brother. It was created while marc nadjiwan and his friends were sitting in a car parked close to the powwow grounds, listening to the music from the round dance. At the same time they were also hearing the local top 40 radio station.
Heading North Music, Marc Nadjiwan (SOCAN)
A mystical bag of Indian music wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of laughter! A central characteristic of Keith Secola’s art is humor. His song “Frybread,” now considered an Indian anthem, takes something serious and adds a humorous country flavor.
Secola’s tongue in cheek references don’t ignore the record of his people’s past. He acknowledges that the history of his people is brutal. Humor is part of the healing.
Robbie Robertson, of Mohawk descent, has led the way in the goal of encouraging mainstream acceptance of native music.
Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble
“Twisted Hair” from Robbie Robertson And The Red Road Ensemble identifies the essence of this beaded bag of native music art and song. It features the wide spectrum of musical sounds offered by Indian artists, from the formal, highly trained sounds of native opera star Bonnie Jo Hunt, to nature’s choir of singing crickets.
Tribal rhythms is produced by our music director, Nico Wind and written by Anne Morin.
If you’d like to learn more about any of the artists or music featured in our programs, visit us on the web at wisdomoftheelders.org.