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Old 06-27-2000, 01:03 AM   #1
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Post Composing Songs

I have been told by some that one has to earn the right to compose songs. I have been told by others that if a song "comes to you" it ought to be used. I would enjoy hearing some feedback on this.
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Old 06-27-2000, 03:18 AM   #2
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i'm sure someone, somewhere will say there is some sacred privaledge to be earned here, but come on, think about this, you're a singer, you're a human, you express youself through music, just write a frikin' song if ya want to!AAARRRRRRRGGGGHHHH!
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Old 06-27-2000, 04:39 AM   #3
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Belonging to two important societies in my tribe has allowed myself to fortunately be gifted with the ability to compose and pass on songs. I am one of many in my large families to have this ability.

Many which come to myself are from times long passed, but the song comes through myself or another to be used by those who request and/or need the song for a purpose.
Composing contemporary social songs or pow-wows songs has always come easy to myself and I often share these with friends by passing it on to them. Sacred ceremonial songs I pass on if one learns the song by hearing it sung. This often takes some time. An example is if one of our old sweat songs is learned, after a time we will permit one to sing it in ceremony, but they always are to mention its origin and holders of the song, ie: buffalo Society.

Many of the songs I sing have been in the family and band and tribe longer than anyone can recall. Many of the pow-wows songs I sing I have composed myself over the past 20 or so years. On any day I have 1-10 songs come to me, often I forget the tune or part of it, but in time it returns, sometimes a little at a time or all at once.

It has happened more than once that songs which come to myself are from another tribe where I am living or working. I ask elders about their origin and meanings.

The Cree songs whih come to myself tell stories of places, times, events or praise Indian heritage. I enjoy singing word songs much more than no word songs. I make it a point to not sing other drums songs in pow-wow or round dances.
I have been singing in ceremonies, pow-wows and round dances for the past 30 years. I prefer old style singing and drumming.

I know many people who clainm to be gifted with songs, but nowadays with so mnay contemporary drums and numerous pow-wows, these types of songs are a dime a dozen.

It has never failed that when I ask elders about the origin of a song which has come to myself, I am told that song was for that ceremony, or that was for this ceremony,.. I feel very fortunate to be presented with the opportunity to preserve these songs for Indian people as they are intended for.


In the Chilcotin band I work in we have composed 15 pow-wow songs which tell of the bands history and traditions. This drum group already has been recognized for the effort to promote their traditional life through this medium. We have been asked to sing at several tribal gatherings and celebrations. It was not easy to sing in Chilcotin and in a pow-wow style,but it has done wonders for the youth's self esteem and pride.
There is talk of recording a tape of these songs..this would be an exciting venture.

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Old 06-27-2000, 10:39 AM   #4
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There is a difference between ceremonial and social songs(obviously)There are people who are gifted with being able to "catch songs"
these songs are used for ceremony and not social events.
Other then that, anyone can compose a song as long as it fits the right "format" for the type of song you are making. Im talking about powwow songs now. Its an expressions and if you have song that comes to your mind then tape it, write it down(I prefer word songs too) and try it out. Sometimes its hit and miss and the song just wont come out right. Im putting together some songs in Muscogee, some of them are prayer songs and veterans songs. That doesnt mean I have to douse myself in sage juice to be able to write them Although it is easier and bettter to write these tyepes of songs after having been to a sweat or stomp dance, Being in this mind set really makes a big difference in creating songs and it is a lot easier too.
This is a good topic and not something many people think about. I have met people who said they were song carriers, I didnt know what they meant but they were pretty full of thesmelves so I didnt pay much attention to them. Besides, isnt everyone who sits at the drum a "song carrier"? they are to me. As long as the songs are being passed on to the next generation and songs are being made for the current one then all singers are "song carriers" So compose some songs and try them, if people like it then continue to sing it. We dont have a protocol for composing songs, any other input from other nations?
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Old 06-28-2000, 01:04 AM   #5
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I really appreciate the responses so far. I also received an email from an Oglala friend that basically said "go for it" in relation to composing songs.


Kahkakew, I'm glad to see you posting again-you always have interesting things to add.
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Old 06-28-2000, 04:02 AM   #6
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I have been busy as the Pow-wow season here has started up. Last weekend my family travelled to Edmonton to watch the Canadian national Pow-wow. It was a great event with approx. 1000+ registered dancers and 40 of the top drums attending. Big crowds and greta dancing, singing and drumming.

Last weekend we travelled up north to Prince George, B.C. to attend their native friendship centres first competition pow-wow, it was another excellent event.

We are planning to travel alot this summer with our small daughter to mainly competition pow-wows in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. With work and all the travelling, I have had little time to surf the net. Thanx for the feedback.

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