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Old 12-05-2006, 05:01 PM   #1
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What makes a Southern Drum great?

Really didn't think about this too much until I got the survey to fill out, but started wondering, what would make a good criteria to judge drums head to head for an honor like this.

I know everyone has their own opinions about who is best out there, but seriously, what would make you think that one is better than the other...

Here are some obvious eliminators...

1. They can't sing for sh*t! (In your opinion)
2. They sing on beat all the time.
3. Beats are off
4. no flow to melody of the tunes
5. Wrong song construction.
6. No energy

But after that, what seperates the big boys from the local yokels. Obviously, a drum that is successful in contest all over the place like Youngbird is going to be most well-known, but does that truly make them better? What about the pow wow drum that can flat out jam that will travel anywhere, anytime, and only asks for enough to cover their expenses, and maybe a little extra, and not demand $5,000+ everywhere they go?

So here's your chance to chime in... What makes a southern drum top tear, as oppossed to just ok?
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Old 12-05-2006, 11:09 PM   #2
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Almost everything you mention contributes to the "Greatness" or Reputation. When I judge, I look at alot of these things. I am not, however, big on "Reputation". I listen to the Drum and song(s)........my first reaction is "do I like the song(s)". I think a "Great" Drum has also got to be that "jammin" drum you mention. I also think you should look at how they interact. Are they having FUN ! If you are fortunate to belong to group that "Sounds Good" and you have fun and you truly like each other........then, to me, that's a "Great Drum". 'Cause if it ain't no fun, .......it ain't no fun.....and it should be !!!!

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Old 12-06-2006, 02:27 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by indianjoe1946
Almost everything you mention contributes to the "Greatness" or Reputation. When I judge, I look at alot of these things. I am not, however, big on "Reputation". I listen to the Drum and song(s)........my first reaction is "do I like the song(s)". I think a "Great" Drum has also got to be that "jammin" drum you mention. I also think you should look at how they interact. Are they having FUN ! If you are fortunate to belong to group that "Sounds Good" and you have fun and you truly like each other........then, to me, that's a "Great Drum". 'Cause if it ain't no fun, .......it ain't no fun.....and it should be !!!!

I agree with you but I do have to add a bit. When judging a drum, the judge must also look at the dancers in the circle. Are the dancers jammin out or are they just hanging in the circle to be there? Look at their faces and movements. How are the dancers responding to the drum. The more together the drum is, the more the dancers will respond. You gotta look at the crowd outside the circle too. Look at the fence hangers. Are they jammin too? Or are they just hangin out? Are the spectators outside the circle moving with the song or are they just talking and paying no attention. Do head turn to the sound?

There is so much more to look at and listen too then just the drum and singers. Everything has to be taken into consideration.

A drum can have perfect pitch and a perfect beat but, If you can't move the dancers and the crowd, It ain't never gonna happen! You gotta have the heart to put everything together.
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Old 12-06-2006, 08:53 AM   #4
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I agree with you but I do have to add a bit. When judging a drum, the judge must also look at the dancers in the circle. Are the dancers jammin out or are they just hanging in the circle to be there? Look at their faces and movements. How are the dancers responding to the drum. The more together the drum is, the more the dancers will respond. You gotta look at the crowd outside the circle too. Look at the fence hangers. Are they jammin too? Or are they just hangin out? Are the spectators outside the circle moving with the song or are they just talking and paying no attention. Do head turn to the sound?

There is so much more to look at and listen too then just the drum and singers. Everything has to be taken into consideration.

A drum can have perfect pitch and a perfect beat but, If you can't move the dancers and the crowd, It ain't never gonna happen! You gotta have the heart to put everything together.
The only thing in this entire statement that I agree with is that you have to have heart. That's true. The rest...well...not so much.

I couldn't agree less with the statement that a judge should be looking at the dancers and the crowd. You're there to judge that drum on its singing - its a singing contest...not a "Who can elicit the best response from the crowd contest". If that were the case then local drums would win at every pow wow.

Judge the singers on their technical merit, their raw singing ability, their ability to sing the right song at the right time, and their power - not how many people are up dancing to them because nowadays less and less people dance intertribals and even fewer dance hard because they don't want to tire out before their all-important contest.

Anyways, everyone is going to dance hard during their contest regardless of if the song stinks or not so that's no indication of their ability. If you're a judge, that's your call. If you can't make it yourself, then you shouldn't be a judge.
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Old 12-08-2006, 05:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Wojapi4Me
The only thing in this entire statement that I agree with is that you have to have heart. That's true. The rest...well...not so much.

I couldn't agree less with the statement that a judge should be looking at the dancers and the crowd. You're there to judge that drum on its singing - its a singing contest...not a "Who can elicit the best response from the crowd contest". If that were the case then local drums would win at every pow wow.

Judge the singers on their technical merit, their raw singing ability, their ability to sing the right song at the right time, and their power - not how many people are up dancing to them because nowadays less and less people dance intertribals and even fewer dance hard because they don't want to tire out before their all-important contest.

Anyways, everyone is going to dance hard during their contest regardless of if the song stinks or not so that's no indication of their ability. If you're a judge, that's your call. If you can't make it yourself, then you shouldn't be a judge.
-japi-

You make a valid point about dancers just out there to be out there. And yes, I've seen cases where the small local drum flat out rocked a song (an original), but because they were not the "big drum" of the area with the common songs people did not dance.

Believe it or not, to be a judge means you have a lot of power! And even more so, the dispute of Good Drums, Great Drums, ya-ya-ya....will always be a matter of opinion!
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Old 12-09-2006, 01:24 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by LSS
-japi-

You make a valid point about dancers just out there to be out there. And yes, I've seen cases where the small local drum flat out rocked a song (an original), but because they were not the "big drum" of the area with the common songs people did not dance.

Believe it or not, to be a judge means you have a lot of power! And even more so, the dispute of Good Drums, Great Drums, ya-ya-ya....will always be a matter of opinion!
Valid points ! I've been to (and sang at) powwows were the "Name" Drum was out sang by some unknown with HEART. The "Name" won the money, but everyone knew who K..... A.. ! Not all Drums care about "Contest". Some go to a contest just to get their "Name" known for future jobs.......or to make area contacts. They are much happier singing at the "Traditional" powwows because they truly love to sing and have people dance to their songs.
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Old 12-09-2006, 11:44 PM   #7
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Some interesting points so far...

I agree that some of the bigger name drums will get more people to dance to their songs because their songs are better known... but there are a lot of drums that do simply JAM that don't get the attention...

I know that the drum I sing with will probably never be a Rose Hill, Youngbird or Sizzortail simply because the area we are in, but we sing with heart and because we love to sing.

I would love to think that if we did enter a drum contest we would be judged on our own merits, but if there is another "name" drum there, I am not nieve enough to think we will win. Pow wow committees are in it to build their pow wows, and if you can get a Cozad, Zotigh or Thunder Hill in then they will probably win because of reputation and in the hopes that they will come back.

Wojapi, I have no doubt you judge as fairly as you can, but I know some other drum judges out there (too many) that will have their placings in line before the drums even kick out a song based on reputation alone, yes newer drums that flat out jam will turn heads a few times, but it's rare.

Do I think we are able to compete with the big dogs anytime soon... no... but we keep singing and getting better, hey... even Young Bird had to start somewhere!

Just my 49 cents worth!

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Old 12-10-2006, 12:26 AM   #8
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Some interesting points so far...

I agree that some of the bigger name drums will get more people to dance to their songs because their songs are better known... but there are a lot of drums that do simply JAM that don't get the attention...

I know that the drum I sing with will probably never be a Rose Hill, Youngbird or Sizzortail simply because the area we are in, but we sing with heart and because we love to sing.

I would love to think that if we did enter a drum contest we would be judged on our own merits, but if there is another "name" drum there, I am not nieve enough to think we will win. Pow wow committees are in it to build their pow wows, and if you can get a Cozad, Zotigh or Thunder Hill in then they will probably win because of reputation and in the hopes that they will come back.

Wojapi, I have no doubt you judge as fairly as you can, but I know some other drum judges out there (too many) that will have their placings in line before the drums even kick out a song based on reputation alone, yes newer drums that flat out jam will turn heads a few times, but it's rare.

Do I think we are able to compete with the big dogs anytime soon... no... but we keep singing and getting better, hey... even Young Bird had to start somewhere!

Just my 49 cents worth!

Paselo~
I agree that there are a lot of judges out there that have the winners pick before the competition. Very unfair and very un-professional. Sure the big named drums are going to have an advantage over a local drum. That's a given. But you can't judge a contest on being famous. You gotta judge on what is happening at that contest not the drums reputation or following.

If I were to judge your local drum against a "super drum". I would look at each song played. If the super drum has an off song in the round and blows the song, and you guys are right on for that round, you will get the points. Not the super drum. Another thing to point out is that a super drum may run a song without breaking a sweat or putting their heart into it because the song is just a standard thing to them. Then you guys come up and I hear heart pounding voices and drumwork that hits the very heart of the song, then you would win the round.

That's fair in my book.

You also have to take into consideration the heart of the singers. Some of the big drums also have "big heads". Sometimes it shows. If your a snob about the competition you loose points. I would take off points for improper protocol. For example a drum running a song for practice while another drum is performing. These are some of the things I look at.

Every drum must be judged fairly and honestly for the day of competition, not on reputation.

As I said before you do have to look at the dancers. Sure the super drums will draw a crowd in the circle. That's to be expected. But what about the "No Name" drum that turns heads and pulls dancers to the circle. I'm not talking a local drum with local people. Sure a local drum will pull a local crowd into the circle. What about the "no name" that has never performed in that area that pulls the crowd? This is something that must be taken into consideration. What are they doing right!
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Old 12-10-2006, 01:38 AM   #9
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I agree that there are a lot of judges out there that have the winners pick before the competition. Very unfair and very un-professional. Sure the big named drums are going to have an advantage over a local drum. That's a given. But you can't judge a contest on being famous. You gotta judge on what is happening at that contest not the drums reputation or following.

If I were to judge your local drum against a "super drum". I would look at each song played. If the super drum has an off song in the round and blows the song, and you guys are right on for that round, you will get the points. Not the super drum. Another thing to point out is that a super drum may run a song without breaking a sweat or putting their heart into it because the song is just a standard thing to them. Then you guys come up and I hear heart pounding voices and drumwork that hits the very heart of the song, then you would win the round.

That's fair in my book.

You also have to take into consideration the heart of the singers. Some of the big drums also have "big heads". Sometimes it shows. If your a snob about the competition you loose points. I would take off points for improper protocol. For example a drum running a song for practice while another drum is performing. These are some of the things I look at.

Every drum must be judged fairly and honestly for the day of competition, not on reputation.

As I said before you do have to look at the dancers. Sure the super drums will draw a crowd in the circle. That's to be expected. But what about the "No Name" drum that turns heads and pulls dancers to the circle. I'm not talking a local drum with local people. Sure a local drum will pull a local crowd into the circle. What about the "no name" that has never performed in that area that pulls the crowd? This is something that must be taken into consideration. What are they doing right!

A few points to discuss, eh ! First of all, in the Contests I have been involved in, the Judges usually fill out a "structured" rating form, (the Judges are informed about what the Judging criteria will be ahead of time), and it is handed in to the Head Judge after each Drum is Judged. You do not have the opportunity to listen to other Drums and compare songs for that round. Sometimes there are 2 or more songs or rotations go by before another Drum is judged. The Drum rating is based on a compilation of several "Judgings", sometimes the same people are involved for each session, sometimes in fact, you may not have the same Judges for each session. Secondly, the number of people in the Circle at a Contest has no bearing on the Drum. If you enter a dance contest you dance every time your category is called and you also dance all inter-tribals, along with ALL Grand Entrys. Numbers are watched, and points are usually deducted if the dancers don't participate. So, it is in the DANCERS best interest to dance, unless another category is called. Thirdly, the NAME Drum ALWAYS has the edge. The Powwow committees know they will draw good Dancers and paying spectators. It's called "paying your dues", and the practice is used in all walks of life. Is it always "fair".........NO, not always..........but it is a fact. The "no-name" Drums that sing with "Heart", or as some say " do it the right way", are the ones that we all have in our communities. They are the ones that we all go to for Weddings, Funerals, Ceremonies, .....they are the ones that are always at the local functions, singing for the community..... Don't get me wrong......just because a Drum has a "Name" doesn't mean they are not that type of Drum. They too started where everybody else did..........it's just that now they have been successful in a more "commercial" manner. The "Name" Drums are well respected for what they contribute to the community they reside in......they also participate in the community functions. You just don't usually hear about it as much as their big Contest wins or new CD recordings. A lot of the people I sing with started by being taught by someone from a "name" Drum. I don't think every Drum wants to be a "Contest" Drum........I know a lot of them that have never been to a contest, and have no plans to go to one. Contest is a "Commercial" venture........there is nothing "Ceremonial" or "Traditional" (culture wise) about it. Expect it to be run that way, and you won't be disappointed. If the "no-name" Drum is in fact "Rockin" and they persist.......someday they will be well known......NAMED !!! Either way, to do what any of our Drums does takes a lot of hard work and practice.
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Old 12-10-2006, 02:05 AM   #10
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A few points to discuss, eh ! First of all, in the Contests I have been involved in, the Judges usually fill out a "structured" rating form, (the Judges are informed about what the Judging criteria will be ahead of time), and it is handed in to the Head Judge after each Drum is Judged. You do not have the opportunity to listen to other Drums and compare songs for that round. Sometimes there are 2 or more songs or rotations go by before another Drum is judged. The Drum rating is based on a compilation of several "Judgings", sometimes the same people are involved for each session, sometimes in fact, you may not have the same Judges for each session. Secondly, the number of people in the Circle at a Contest has no bearing on the Drum. If you enter a dance contest you dance every time your category is called and you also dance all inter-tribals, along with ALL Grand Entrys. Numbers are watched, and points are usually deducted if the dancers don't participate. So, it is in the DANCERS best interest to dance, unless another category is called. Thirdly, the NAME Drum ALWAYS has the edge. The Powwow committees know they will draw good Dancers and paying spectators. It's called "paying your dues", and the practice is used in all walks of life. Is it always "fair".........NO, not always..........but it is a fact. The "no-name" Drums that sing with "Heart", or as some say " do it the right way", are the ones that we all have in our communities. They are the ones that we all go to for Weddings, Funerals, Ceremonies, .....they are the ones that are always at the local functions, singing for the community..... Don't get me wrong......just because a Drum has a "Name" doesn't mean they are not that type of Drum. They too started where everybody else did..........it's just that now they have been successful in a more "commercial" manner. The "Name" Drums are well respected for what they contribute to the community they reside in......they also participate in the community functions. You just don't usually hear about it as much as their big Contest wins or new CD recordings. A lot of the people I sing with started by being taught by someone from a "name" Drum. I don't think every Drum wants to be a "Contest" Drum........I know a lot of them that have never been to a contest, and have no plans to go to one. Contest is a "Commercial" venture........there is nothing "Ceremonial" or "Traditional" (culture wise) about it. Expect it to be run that way, and you won't be disappointed. If the "no-name" Drum is in fact "Rockin" and they persist.......someday they will be well known......NAMED !!! Either way, to do what any of our Drums does takes a lot of hard work and practice.
I like the criteria you're talking about, a flat scale that everyone is judged by... seems a bit fairer that way. I'm more of a traditional pow wow singer anyways, I've danced competition a couple of time and would rather dance for fun or praying rather than prize money, when it comes to singing contest... I will try it, but would probably rather just stick to the traditional pow wows, not much attitude, and more fun.

Paselo~
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Old 12-10-2006, 10:33 AM   #11
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I like the criteria you're talking about, a flat scale that everyone is judged by... seems a bit fairer that way. I'm more of a traditional pow wow singer anyways, I've danced competition a couple of time and would rather dance for fun or praying rather than prize money, when it comes to singing contest... I will try it, but would probably rather just stick to the traditional pow wows, not much attitude, and more fun.

Paselo~

I agree..........our Drum is also more Traditional.......we will Contest occasionally just for the exposure,and we almost always pick up some new contacts and friends that way, but we are more into the "fun" part. We like to travel, see new places, meet new people. That costs money to do, so exposure gets the jobs that pay enough to do that. You can travel on your own money, but not every one can afford to do that. We, like a lot of others, have homes and families to take care of........that always comes first. Like I said in a previous post.........if it ain't fun,..........it ain't FUN !!
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Old 01-05-2007, 01:25 AM   #12
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Here's the thing that distiguishes a great drum from a good or ok drum to me... Power!!!

There ain't nothing like hearing a drum kick in to the response of a lead to make you dance hard. Strong vocals beat anything else in my opinion... Drums that have singers fishing for words and that get muddy... not a fan!

I also like the drums that build throughout the song... nice and relaxed at the beginning, then go to the short lead on the third, stronger beat with a step up on the last lead... oh yeah, that makes me a happy guy! LOL
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Old 01-06-2007, 08:32 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedShield
Here's the thing that distiguishes a great drum from a good or ok drum to me... Power!!!

There ain't nothing like hearing a drum kick in to the response of a lead to make you dance hard. Strong vocals beat anything else in my opinion... Drums that have singers fishing for words and that get muddy... not a fan!

I also like the drums that build throughout the song... nice and relaxed at the beginning, then go to the short lead on the third, stronger beat with a step up on the last lead... oh yeah, that makes me a happy guy! LOL
If you were at the "Great Mohican" Powwow in central Ohio two summers ago, we were the Host Drum for both the Summer and Fall Powwows. This the Contest that is held at the camp ground. We didn't go there last Summer..........we went a couple of other places.
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Old 01-06-2007, 01:45 PM   #14
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If you were at the "Great Mohican" Powwow in central Ohio two summers ago, we were the Host Drum for both the Summer and Fall Powwows. This the Contest that is held at the camp ground. We didn't go there last Summer..........we went a couple of other places.
I ain't been there for probably 8 or 9 years... what was the drum name?
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Old 01-06-2007, 04:26 PM   #15
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I ain't been there for probably 8 or 9 years... what was the drum name?
Niwiwan........in Menominee it means "Four Nations".....which is what I think the committee billed us as for that Powwow. "Iron Necklace"..... (Maza Napin) was there also.....We didn't compete, we were just there for the "Host" job. We were also at the Tennessee State Powwow last summer in Nashville. We have members from several tribes.......a group of close friends and family that used to sing with other Drums. We decided to get together and form "Niwiwan" a few years back.
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Old 01-07-2007, 01:55 PM   #16
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Cool!

I heard your drum mentioned a few times in here... one of my favorite drums is a Menominee drum from up in Wisconsin called Smokeytown...

We know Maza Napin pretty well... their lead singer sings with both Maza Napin and also sings southern with White Hawk... Danny is now engaged to Sterling's youngest and lives up with em in Chicago...

Will watch for you guys... have heard nothing but good things!

Paselo~
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Old 01-07-2007, 03:25 PM   #17
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Cool!

I heard your drum mentioned a few times in here... one of my favorite drums is a Menominee drum from up in Wisconsin called Smokeytown...

We know Maza Napin pretty well... their lead singer sings with both Maza Napin and also sings southern with White Hawk... Danny is now engaged to Sterling's youngest and lives up with em in Chicago...

Will watch for you guys... have heard nothing but good things!

Paselo~
Smokeytown.......yup , most of our guys have been taught by Myron at one time or another.....They still kick butt !
Yeah, I talked with Danny in Ohio a couple of years back.....I was one of the Judges for the Drum contest that year.....nice guy, great voice.....his sister sings too, eh ! They have a real good Drum. I used to live just south of Chicago, so I am very familiar with Whitehawk and Sterling......both Sr. and Jr. Good people.
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Old 01-07-2007, 10:01 PM   #18
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Yeah, Danny, Sammy, Martina and Parnell all have great voices... Maza Napin is a VERY solid crew...

Am glad to see Danny and Coco together... very good union of two very good families... I wish them all nothing but the best!

Will see ya around I'm sure!

Paselo!
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