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Redefining Native Music

by By Claire Quimby, Eiteljorg festivals and markets intern | Jun 11, 2013

“We’re hard to describe. The music is reggae and rock; it’s got flutes; it’s got English and traditional vocals, ballads and some heavy stuff. If I had to describe us, it would be as Native music. That’s what it is.” Adrian Wall, May/June 2013 Native Peoples Magazine.

Less than two weeks until the 21st annual Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival (June 22 and June 23) and excitement is growing for the  talented musicians who will rock the main stage at Military Park. While researching this year’s performers, I got caught up in the question, “What is Native music?” It’s not an easy question to answer. Today’s Native artists are not defined by any single style – their influences are as varied as the genres you might hear while scanning the radio. Multiply those possibilities by hundreds of different tribal affiliations and add to that the intricacies of each artist’s unique personal history and perspective – and you end up with an incredibly diverse range of music. If you’ve only experienced Native music at powwows, Indian Market is a fantastic place to expand your musical point of view. Each of this summer’s leading acts brings a unique blend of contemporary music artfully combined with traditional Native American influences.

 

Shelley Morningsong (Northern Cheyenne/Dutch) grew up in a musical family, so it’s small surprise that by the time she hit high school she was performing in a country-rock band and sneaking into clubs to listen to rock ‘n’ roll and blues. Morningsong lists Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash and Old Blues legend Buddy Guy as some of her most important musical influences, but her music is also inspired by her Native roots as well as her personal experiences. Her 2006 debut album Out of the Ashes pays tribute to the Zuni creation story, while also referencing her own life story as a survivor of domestic violence. Ashes and Morningsong’s second album Full Circle feature her soulful lyrics augmented by electric guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer arranged by Grammy Award winning producer Larry Mitchell. Morningsong’s husband Fabian Fontenelle adds traditional percussion, sings in his native Zuni language, and dances for live performances. Morningsong’s most recent album Heart Songs of the Native American Flute was just released this spring and highlights her love for the instrument.

Catch Morningsong, rocking the Eiteljorg stage with a full band, both days of Indian Market. Performances are at noon and 3pm.  

 

Twin Rivers is named for the convergence of musicians and old friends Adrian Wall (Jemez Pueblo/Ojibwe) and Ed Kabotie (Hopi/Santa Clara Pueblo). Wall and Kabotie’s musical collaborations began as middle school metalheads at Santa Fe Indian School. The years took them separate ways, but eight years ago the rivers of their lives flowed back together and the music was soon to follow. The duo’s first independent album, Springs of Guisewa, draws inspiration from traditional Native songs. Kabotie writes their songs in the three languages he speaks: English, Hopi and Tewa. Exploring Native identity is a crucial part of their music. Their sound is also part rock, part reggae, and part jazz – you can hear the familiar reggae offbeat blended with Native flute in their title track, Springs at Kesewa. The way Twin Rivers intertwine these diverse musical influences reflect their philosophy “that we are all distinct, but connected as if we are one. “ Twin Rivers will be joined by Kabotie’s son Rylan at Indian Market this year, as the three continue their work to redefine the Native experience through music.

Catch Twin Rivers both days of Indian Market. Performances are at 2pm.

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Claire Quimby
Eiteljorg festivals and markets intern

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