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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Pow Wow Talk Is powwow music and dance hard to understand? Is powwow music and dance hard to understand?

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Old 05-30-2017, 12:44 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Is powwow music and dance hard to understand?

I'm a Native singer and dancer. I have grown up around the drum and in the powwow arena. I have an ear for good powwow music and eye for good dancing. I am asked to judge both categories when I attend powwows.

I also perform and have traveled worldwide sharing Native culture in over 40 different countries. Before each dance our narrator would explain what was to take place to give value to what I and other performers were about to do.

In hearing the comments of Non Natives who do not have a trained ear, they describe Native music as shrill, screaming, not pleasing to the ear, unintelligible and/or "chanting." But to many of us on Powwows.com Native music can be described as "jamming, beautiful and meaningful."

Powwow participants idolize good dancers and recognize them for their unique styles. To Non Indians who have never seen fancy dancing, they don't know how to classify it and try to compare it to other art forms they are familiar with including gymnastics, hip hop, ballet, modern, jazz, free style and break dancing. At the very least they admit it is "interesting."

I know of 3 fancy dancers that have entered America's Got Talent. None of them got very far because the judges did not know how to appreciate it. I suppose the same would be true if a top powwow singer sang a round dance on The Voice?

Even the GRAMMYS has ceased to define excellence in American Indian singing by disbanding a Native American GRAMMY Award.

On the flip side, many non Indians emerse themselves in Native Culture emulating the styles of both singing and dancing. A few are even good singers and dancers according to some Native opinions.

Would it be a true statement to say, "Native people and others who participate in powwows and other cultural artforms understand there are different degrees of excellence for singing and dancing and can tell good dancing and singing from bad dancing and singing? Whereas those who have never been around singing and dancing are clueless and mistake bad singing and dancing for more than it is?
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Old 05-30-2017, 01:07 PM   #2
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Just a causal peruse of YouTube:
Good/Great jamming Powwow songs recorded at good/great Powwows

Bad Powwow songs recorded god knows where highlighted by my favorite not a powwow song: "Going to a Powwow"

I work amongst a lot of non-native that were astonished to learn that just outside the gate (Airforce Base) every June for the past 15 years or so is a FREE Powwow sponsored by Federal Employees that are Native! Some of my co-workers have lived in the area there entire life and were not aware of it!
More to your point they came to the dance watched the Fancy Dancers and went home. Even after I showed them the difference in the songs by viewing Youtube none "got" what we were doing and if asked:
Answers ranged from "Rain dance" to that "Indian Thang you all do".

To there ear it all sounded the same from a jamming Round Dance song swinging and swaying the Southern way to even a Northern Song or two LOL. All sound the same...
No difference!
I can understand if we lived far from Native culture like when that time I lived in Georgia you had to really search to find a Powwow.
Not so in Oklahoma! I hang the flyers right behind my desk and some even ask which one I am going to. But to any that I have invited to watch and explain it was a one and done...
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Old 05-30-2017, 01:57 PM   #3
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I am a non Indian. If that is enough to qualify me to answer I have my sincerely doubts.

You asked openly the non Indians and as a non Indian I answer you as is possible from my limited point of view.

I have never been to a pow wow in real live. I can watch videos about dancing and singing here and on youtube. Those videos are limited in covering or transmitting the emotions. A pow wow which I can attend as visitor has to be in Germany. Which pow wow in Germany to go to get a impression of what to expect at a pow wow of yours?

What I am missing in the videos is the narrator you mention for "non Indian" to explain what takes place but that I can not expect considering where those videos are made.

The quality of sound in the videos is often doing no good to the performance of the singers, drummers and dancers. The sound quality ranges from good to bad. That is life and probably due to circumstances.

I have seen Ladies buckskin dance and what I have seen I call dignified. But I do not feel to be in a position to judge who of the Ladies is better than the other.

Ladies first, that is my education.

Man's northern traditional dancing I can say that some seem to hit the rhythm better. But that is only my present impression by looking upon the dancers with my non Indian eyes.

Fancy dancer very looks athletic but strange. A non Indian book worm like me needs educated explanation or for starters a book. Please written by one of you whom you regard as qualified to do so.

The singers or the tune of songs are unusual to my ears. That needs to learn and listen to become accustomed to. That is not true for all songs. I can not find that first song again which was different to me than the others, the group was war scouts, combined with the drums, that sounded good. But I did not catch what song it was. It is difficult to catch the differences and at this moment a can only catch remarkable differences to my ear.

The rhythm of the drums I would like to hear for real. The rhythm of the drums hit.

I searched for one song but think I have not found or recognized that certain song. It is "Mila Hanska Ceyapelo Nantan Iyayapi".

I do not know if a song can be varied within certain limits and if so, what the variations can be. As there are different drums and singers, I assume, that the same song is performed at least subtle different by different drums and singers.


I know that I know almost nothing about songs, their history, their importance, meaning and all combined within culture and the similarities and differences across the many tribes.

Something you have not mentioned is native flute music. This is great music and melodic to my ears on the spot.
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Old 05-30-2017, 03:48 PM   #4
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I like NDN powwows and music. I used to dance. But not anymore. I still go to powwows, just not paying to get into one. So, I don't care what other races of people think about NDNs and our way of singing. If they don't like it, don't listen or watch. Go away.
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Old 05-30-2017, 04:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broken Arrow View Post
I am a non Indian. If that is enough to qualify me to answer I have my sincerely doubts.

You asked openly the non Indians and as a non Indian I answer you as is possible from my limited point of view.

...

I do not know if a song can be varied within certain limits and if so, what the variations can be. As there are different drums and singers, I assume, that the same song is performed at least subtle different by different drums and singers.


I know that I know almost nothing about songs, their history, their importance, meaning and all combined within culture and the similarities and differences across the many tribes.

Something you have not mentioned is native flute music. This is great music and melodic to my ears on the spot.
I appreciate your honesty. It is helping me think about the music I appreciate in relation to other world music. It is interesting that you mention flute music. I helped a vendor get into a busy gift shop frequented my mainly non Indians. He was selling the top powwow drum groups (artists) who he represented. His music did not sell and within 6 months his CDs were in a half price bin. Yet flute music and especially flute music that supports the new age movement, continues to thrive and sell well.
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Old 05-30-2017, 04:02 PM   #6
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People in every culture learn how to hear and enjoy music. It begins with the songs our parents sing to us as infants and is cultivated throughout a lifetime. Our taste in music and our ability to recognize and appreciate forms is embedded in our cultural and socio-economic matrix.

If a person has not cultivated a trained ear within their own culture, they are unlikely to be able to discern forms in unfamiliar musical genres. Further if they're not musically adventurous, they aren't going to step outside the musical comfort zone.
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Old 05-31-2017, 04:57 AM   #7
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The melody of flute music and the sounds of that melody are much closer to foklore music and the normal Music in the non Indian western world than pow wow music with drums and singers.

I have my difficulties with most of the metall music, rap and related music.

A variety of flute music has the effect as of listening to the flow of water of a creek in my perception.


The pow wow music better the singing is very different. The drums alone and their beat have something of an effect I have not the words which describe what it is. The drums are great. And listening to different Groups, to my ear every drum sounds different. Some more and some less diffenrent. It seems that the drums with the deeper voice I like more.
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Old 05-31-2017, 03:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post
If a person has not cultivated a trained ear within their own culture, they are unlikely to be able to discern forms in unfamiliar musical genres. Further if they're not musically adventurous, they aren't going to step outside the musical comfort zone.
It's interesting you say this. I come from a long line of Native composers and I now compose powwow and round dance songs.

But on my own time I listen to George Strait, Pachabel, Bruno Mars, Peter Frampton, Lauren Hill, and even some foreign artists.

I guess I AM musically adventurous, but I can't read a lick of music?
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Old 05-31-2017, 05:56 PM   #9
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As usual Whome , you are an exception to the rule !
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Old 06-01-2017, 12:11 PM   #10
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As usual Whome , you are an exception to the rule !
I know it's because I can't read music!
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Old 06-01-2017, 12:52 PM   #11
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I had a co-worker one time ask me what music I have on my phone, so i let her listen. It was a southern song by Young Bird I think. I referred to the song by saying "This song is called..." She listened, then promptly corrected me saying "That is not a song. It's a CHANT." I gave her a look and said "It's a song."

My favorite is when people hear a song and ask you "What are they saying?"

As if I always know LOL

Recently I started making things up. Last time someone asked I told her it was about "the good bargains at the flea market"
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Old 06-02-2017, 02:01 AM   #12
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The rythm of pow wow music by the drums to my ear isn't so strange. Yet it is clear that the drums alone without singing there is something missing.

I can only speak for my perception. I have heard here a song by Northern Cree where they start only singing and the drums come in some time later. The singing was more understandable, recognizable words and syllables. (There is more but I can't name it exactly.)

I do not necessaryly need to undertsand the language to like a song. But it seems it needs to be recognizable to words or syllables. That is something which is in a lot of pow wow songs less hearable?

Some singers seem to be, what is to my ear, disharmonious to the other singer but I do not know if it is intended. I know that there is music where it is done intended.

I admit that I can't tell yet if song I listen to is a

love song
honor song
war song
victory song
death song
northern, southern or round dance song

without explanation or hint.

I have looked up some of the old threads and posts but in the amount of posts I have not found the posts yet which support to distinguish what sort a song it is when I listen without additional information.
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Show me, and I will understand.
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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.
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Old 06-02-2017, 07:45 AM   #13
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Articles about music are like pictures of food, something is missing. However...

Northern Style Powwow Music: Musical Features and Meaning

Student seeking information
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Old 06-02-2017, 03:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broken Arrow View Post
The rythm of pow wow music by the drums to my ear isn't so strange. Yet it is clear that the drums alone without singing there is something missing.

I can only speak for my perception. I have heard here a song by Northern Cree where they start only singing and the drums come in some time later. The singing was more understandable, recognizable words and syllables. (There is more but I can't name it exactly.)

I do not necessaryly need to undertsand the language to like a song. But it seems it needs to be recognizable to words or syllables. That is something which is in a lot of pow wow songs less hearable?

Some singers seem to be, what is to my ear, disharmonious to the other singer but I do not know if it is intended. I know that there is music where it is done intended.

I admit that I can't tell yet if song I listen to is a

love song
honor song
war song
victory song
death song
northern, southern or round dance song

without explanation or hint.

I have looked up some of the old threads and posts but in the amount of posts I have not found the posts yet which support to distinguish what sort a song it is when I listen without additional information.
Most songs are without words, but at one time they did have words in the original language. I love hearing word songs especially around the 4th of July!

There are thousands and thousands of songs and what always impresses me is a Good head singer can sing all day long and all night long and be asked to sing all kinds of songs
Gourd Dance Songs
Grand entry songs
Memorial Songs victory songs
Contest Songs
Northern Ones
Southern ones
Family Songs
Individual Songs
Round Dance
Snake and Buffalo
and then when the Powwow closes out
Go sing 49 songs
LOL
and then get up have breakfast and get ready for another day
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:50 AM   #15
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Articles about music are like pictures of food, something is missing. However...
As always, you hit the mark.
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Old 06-04-2017, 06:23 AM   #16
The voices tell me...
 
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First, I would propably qualify for the clueless category. That being said...

I was talking to my son about music and different dialects for the same style music. He was listening to music with Cuban influence and he called it 'Spanish' music. We talked about 'Spanish' being different depending on the parts of the world.

It got me thinking about this topic. Being able to tell good songs, their meaning, are they word songs or are they vocables, and are they being sung right. What do you think when you hear and old Red Bull traditional song versus a Young Bear traditional song? Does a Northern Round Dance song sound the same as a Souther '49 song?

Now, the 'dialect', for lack of a better term. Does a Chicken Dance song sound the same, or have the same meaning, if the song is sung by a Northern drum from Arizona or a drum from Blackfoot Crossing? Can a drum from North Carolina sing a Southern song the same as, let's say, a drum with the history of the Zotigh Singers drum?

Old as I am, I just like to dance when I hear the drum, Northern or Southern, good or not as good.
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Old 06-05-2017, 03:05 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe's Dad View Post
It got me thinking about this topic. Being able to tell good songs, their meaning, are they word songs or are they vocables, and are they being sung right. What do you think when you hear and old Red Bull traditional song versus a Young Bear traditional song? Does a Northern Round Dance song sound the same as a Souther '49 song?

Now, the 'dialect', for lack of a better term. Does a Chicken Dance song sound the same, or have the same meaning, if the song is sung by a Northern drum from Arizona or a drum from Blackfoot Crossing? Can a drum from North Carolina sing a Southern song the same as, let's say, a drum with the history of the Zotigh Singers drum?

This is an interesting group of questions.

Some regions of NdN country have adopted powwow music and over an evolution of time, imitate Northern and Southern music even though they are not based in the north or south.

Case in point. I have heard the Northern Lights Drum from Anchorage, Alaska sing southern and sound good. And I have heard the War Paint Drum from North Carolina sing Northern and sound good too!

At some point, neither one of these regions had powwow in their area.
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