Thread: Drumming
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Old 03-12-2011, 08:37 PM   #14
Gledanh Zhinga
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This thread got a little off beat. It's hard to explain with words, but each song has alternating stressed and unstressed beats, or you might say every other beat is accented. Sometimes, the drum is beating steadily, but the song words or vocables accent/unaccent every other beat (every second beat). Practiced dancers and singers hardly think about this; it's like second nature. For dancers, the accented beat is the first step of the leg that takes two steps. For dancers who don't do this, they are "advertising their ignorance." George Flying Eagle, Navajo/Taos, says that ha ha they are dancing on the other side of the drum.

Another way of thinking about it. In a women's Southern Contest, all bodies rise on the accented beat; all the heads and torsos are rising at the same time. If a woman is "off beat," she'll be lowering her torso while everybody else is rising. Looks like heck.

Now, getting to the drum. Let's say a song is started second time through by an inexperienced youngster, and he starts it on an untressed beat, when he should have started it on a stressed beat. It throws the dancers off; they need to shuffle to get in step again. The poor drum usually has to follow the bad lead, because it's hard to change horses in the middle of a stream.

In terms of word songs, the words and syllables are arranged to follow the alternating stress. Some native languages, even English, is spoken that way: PE-ter PI-per PICKED-a PECK of PICK-led PEP-pers. I think that the Cehiga (Ponca & Omaha) language is like that. It is essentially iambic. On one of these threads, I used as an example the Cehiga word, Nudáhonga, meaning leader, It is normally spoken with the accent on the second syllable, á. There are a number of Ponca songs which either celebrate the leader or else, the song maker is talking to the leader. If need be, the accent can be changed to Núdahóga or Núdahonga, just so long as it fits the stress and non-stress of the particular song.

In the present day, we sometimes have singing and dancing judges who don't even know about this accent business. Shame, shame.

Last edited by Gledanh Zhinga; 03-13-2011 at 12:42 AM..
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