The heartbeat of the Nations
Beyond the drum: The rich heritage of Native-American music
Join World Beat's Bruno Del Granado for the sights and sounds
Web posted on:
Tuesday, July 06, 1999 4:20:37 PM EST
From Bruno del Granado
CNN World Beat Correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) -- Just off Route 66 in Albuquerque lies the site of the Gathering of Nations powwow, where indigenous traditional and modern music take center stage.
The annual event -- the biggest meeting of American Indian tribes on the continent -- attracts more than 2,000 Native-American dancers and singers representing 500 tribes who come to trade intracultural traditions.
Their heritage stretches back at least 3,000 years and their songs and instrumentals are widely recognized as North America's first music.
"Without powwows, then we don't have social events," says Kyle Etsytte of the Nava Nation. "Without that, there is no such thing as 'Native American.'"
Widely recognized as North America's first music, the sounds of the Native Americans remain largely unknown in mainstream music. Dating back thousands of years, these sounds have been the bedrock of Native-American artistic expression, steeped in rich tribal tradition.
One instrument forms the hub
"The drum is always the center," explains Jodi Thomasgaskin of the Ojibway Nation. "It was given to us from the Creator to bring us together around the drum. He gave it to us because our people were going through hard times. And now ... you'll see almost every tribe in North America represented here, all dancing to those same big drums."
Don't be fooled into thinking that the music is a relic of bygone days. The younger generations of Native-American musicians are no strangers to the world of music videos. They say the trick is always to think of ways to bring the tradition into this decade -- and into the new millennium.
"We're in a contemporary world," says Lakota Nation member Paul Laroche. "The drum, it will always be considered the heart, the center of the traditional music. But as we kind of edge forward into this area, the contemporary side of this thing, we need to bring along all this technology ... it has to be merged in. And the only key is to do it in a respectful manner."
Their parents and grandparents aren't concerned that New Age has eclipsed the old ways. To them, the message and the medium stay the same: The drum is the "heartbeat of the nation and the soul of the people ... the flute symbolizes the feelings and emotions."
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Gathering of Nations
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