As seen through the culture of the Zuni
people of Arizona and New Mexico, the Sunrise is something to sing to, to pray to, and to
rejoice in. This is plain in Chester Mahooty's "Zuni Sunrise Song" which starts
off this collection of music from Native Americans. The best thing about this album is its
choice of variety, breadth and substance. Modern currents in Native American music include
the contributions of women, traditional uses of music, and the many crossovers. This album
is a great starting point for a musical journey.
Native American women have been making great music even before Buffy
Sainte Marie. Included are fundamental cuts from to the far reaching trio Walela (Rita
Coolidge, her sister Priscilla, and Priscilla's daughter Laura Satterfield), and folk
renderings of Sharon Burch, Judy Trejo and Joanne Shenandoah (a personal favorite because
of her rich voice and superb production).
The producers seem to understand the importance of traditional songs to
Native Americans. The listener will soon understand the difference in the different powwow
songs and their use by the people. Primeaux and Mike's Healing Song is used in the
Native American church. The Garcia Brothers, the Blackstone Singers, Cornel Pewewardy and
the Black Lodge Singers sing powwow songs for certain dances, ceremonies, and even a kid's
tribute to that Native American icon: Mickey Mouse!
Modern influences have been captured by WithOut Rezervation who
generate techno/funk outlets to their anger and pride. (See also the seminal album by
Basslines and Ballistics: Dancing on John Wayne's Head). Jazz/traditional/ambient
crossovers of R. Carlos Nakai, Robert Tree Cody and Burning Sky show a more serene use of
the traditions. The producers have included excellent examples of these genre's and have
avoided the many less than wonderful crossovers available.
However, the Rough Guide makes one very European mistake, in my eyes,
at least. Native Americans include the people of our present day Latin America and the
Arctic people, whose music is lacking in this collection. A song of the Maya or Inuit
peoples, though less developed, would better round out the collection. But this should not
deter the listener from picking up this superb album - and several others while you're at
it - and discovering the wide range of musical expression available to the rest of us from
our elder brothers and sisters.
Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 1999