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Contemporary Native American Music
Over the last 20 years, Native American Music has transformed itself and incorporated traditional elements (such as original instruments like flutes, drums and chants), along with combining new sounds of synthesizers, electric guitars, rapping and so
The result is a new musical flavour. It seems to me that it all started in the mid 90s, when a German group called Sacred Spirit topped the charts and had a huge success throughout western countries. The root of such genre of music is still the ancient one (from Native Americans) but we could better define it as electronic, new age, ambient or world music.
Music has the power to evolve along in response to people's ever-changing taste. Music is there to make people dream, to soothe anxieties and troubles, to keep company and to make our world and human experience a better place.
The Native American well-known advanced culture, their popular quotes, their discovery and their notorious extermination are powerful ingredients for movies and media-entertainment products, because they help broaden our imagination and feel ourselves plunged in a world of purity, great wisdom and uncontaminated landscapes, in which horses and dreams can freely stroll on over new horizons.
Contemporary native American music often uses quotes and original melodies or chants from the native Americans. In fact, music was such an essential part of their everyday lives and they used it in order to mark important events, to pray, heal illnesses, make crops grow, celebrate, and tackle difficult situations.
Music is at the centre of creating a cultural identity for Native American people and nowadays it’s become more and more important for them to keep their traditional music pure as not to lose their cultural identity and roots.
The creation of this hybrid Native American music allows for a new perspective on Native Americans. Their music and culture is becoming more popular, however, it is important to distinguish between what can be considered original and what is a modern interpretation of tradition, at the very least in order to preserve their cultural heritage intact. At the same time, I think it is fair to allow people to enjoy the results of intermixing, as well as the modern interpretations of old music made by musicians from all over the world and not just native Americans.
Native American Indian music has a very distinct sound. The beat tends to be constant but the harmony and melodies change. It is often used for relaxation and meditation because it creates a soothing aura that results in feelings of comfort and safety. On top of that, it is often mixed with sounds of nature which create pleasant soundscapes, stimulate the imagination and take our minds off negative thinking and stress triggers.
The traditional instruments commonly used for this kind of music are aerophones (in which the sound is produced by blowing) such as the Eagle bone whistle (made out of the bone of a Bald Eagle), the “Yuchi Flute” and many other Native American flutes. Besides those, Native American drums and percussion instruments are other fundamental ingredients. The most common are: the Indian Clapper, the turtle shell rattle, and the Native American big drum which is often very large and played by groups of singers who sit around in a circle. Singing (chants) was also a very important part of their musical tradition. The lyrics can include prayers, messages of hope, healing formulas, etc. Different American tribes had different languages, instruments, and music, which is why sometimes it can be hard to tell which traits could be referred to as common in such a vast and multifaceted heritage.
Contemporary Native American Music is made by using traditional instruments and sounds as well as the contribution of new technology. It is commonly recorded by computers and created with extensive use of synthetized sounds, samples, electronic drum loops and modern instruments like electric bass, guitars and modern backing vocals. It is an utterly new kind of music that broadens the horizons of arrangers, musicians, composers and music listeners. A good example of this genre of music, which combines the old and the new, is the one made by “Indian Calling”, a group of great musicians with whom I had the pleasure to work. Their first album, published for the first time in 2006, includes top successful songs like “Ly O Ly A Le Loya”, “The last of the Mohicans”, “Llaky Runa” and “Canyon Train”. Their last two albums are “Indians” and “Native American Spirit”. The latter has been released in January 2014.
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