“ All Native American cultures have singing in their traditions” (Tibbett 15) They would sing to a baby or child. Often they would sing to remember a war hero or heroine, “ask for good weather, or perform a blessing ceremony. Sometimes songs are composed by an inspired person. At other times they come to people in dreams, or in visions, offering wisdom and guidance” (Tibbett 15) These songs were considered to be “given” to him or her by a higher power.
Singing and vocals are often the most essential part of Native American music and ceremonies. Songs carry important tribal history,values, the power to heal, or bring good luck in hunting. Some songs were considered sacred and only performed at special ceremonies.
Instruments were used with singing during ceremonies but were more of a way to keep a rhythm than to display instrumental talent. Flutes were traditionally not used during ceremonies, but rather as a way for men to make love calls to women.
For an example of a ceremonial dance with music, click the above link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GLu1oKgD7g&feature=player_embedded
Singing Styles “ In Plains singing, both the men and the women sing.” (Tibbett 23) The women would sit behind the drummers and make their voices carry over the men’s voices. “ In many songs, the singers begin singing on high pitches and then descend down to low pitches in the course of a song. Plains singers are also known for adding shouts, or yips and howls, in the middle of a song” (Tibbett 23)
Singing Styles It was common for singers to imitate animal noises in their songs to add effect and/or out of respect for the animal. “ Inuit (Eskimo) throat singing in the Arctic is a style of singing usually performed by two women. The singers stand close together with their faces almost touching, repeating low sounds in a fast, pulsing rhythm. The singing goes back and forth, and can go on for a while or end abruptly when one of the singers laughs or smiles. Throat singing is said to represent the sounds of animals and birds.” (Tibbett 23)
Singing Styles Native Americans, just like African Americans, would sometimes use a style called “Call-and-Response”. This is where a chief or spirit leader would call out and a chorus would respond. In eastern tribes, men and women would also do this.
Passing It On “ The oral tradition is the practice of passing words or songs from one person to another by telling or singing; this practice has kept Native American songs alive for many generations” (Tibbett 13)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP1J1lbj7BI A link to Plains Indian Sundance and Grass Dance song
Sacred “ Sacred songs are like prayers. They can be requests for guidance or calls for help. They can be used as an expression of worship or a way to show thanks... Sacred songs are often performed in ceremonies for special outcomes. ”(Tibbett 16) These sacred songs are very rare for an outsider to hear. One would have to be a Native in order to listen and/or be part of the ceremony.
The Protagonist Like all other cultures, the Native Americans had heroes and heroines. They would sing about these protagonist and about their adventures and battles and success.
The Warrior “ Warrior songs offered power for fighting and success in war. In many traditions, warrior societies sang and danced in ceremonials that called for success and protection in war. The women sang songs of missing the warriors, and sang of their relief when the men returned” (Tibbett 18)
A link to a Cherokee War dance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEl-yJQvXaE&feature=related
Nature Many of the Native American songs are about nature. They would sing in respect to nature or tell myths or legends about it. Song about a warrior who goes out and learns from the animals is common. Legends about how this world came to be and how the Natives were part of it with equal stature with all the wild life and growth and land.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ7KZkE5ekw&feature=related A link to Apache Mountain Spirit ceremony
Lullabies “ Parents have always sung to their babies to soothe them and to teach them. In old times, lullabies offered “sleep magic” to lull babies to sleep in cradleboards hanging from trees, rocking to the rhythm of the song. Lullabies also offered gentle instructions for how to grow up with good values and skills. Mothers sang to their daughters about being good sewers and gatherers. Fathers sang to their sons about being good hunters and warriors.” (Tibbett 20)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P_zmSJDaDE To the mothers out there Here's a link to a Lakota Lullaby
The Song Types “ There are three classes of songs—traditional songs, handed down from generation to generation; ceremonial and medicine songs, supposed to be received in dreams; and modern songs, showing the influence of European culture.” (Native American music 2)
Traditional Traditional songs are the songs the Native Americans sang before the outside influence of the Europeans. These song would be about many things and are the heart of the Native American music that we know today.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onkhsNq_7oQ&feature=related A sample of traditional music
Ceremonial & Medicine Native Americans would use ceremonies to help promote many things like health, strength, and spirituality. Many of these songs and ceremonies involve dancing. Before, and sometimes after, a harvesting or a battle or a hunt or many other things, Native Americans would hold these ceremonies to honor their creator, ask for guidance, help in battle and/or with the hunt, give thanks for the harvest, ect.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQGW5a0q51w&feature=related The ghost dance
Modern Modern Native American music is any Native American music with European influences. The Native American flute became very popular with the Europeans and it is often found in most modern music today.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ5ZU1HDPLQ Very modern Native American music with modern day instruments and chanting
Even though a lot of the Native American culture was lost or destroyed, their music still lives on today.
Crawford, Richard. An Introduction to America's Music . New York, NY W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. Print.
Erdoes, Richard, and Alfonso Ortiz, eds. American Indian Myths and Legends .
New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1984. Print.
"Native American music." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.