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What Makes a Good Northern Drum?

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  • What Makes a Good Northern Drum?

    We've discussed and listed our favorite northern drums several times on this forum, but what makes for a good northern drum? What criteria do we base our opinions of who the best is? Knowledge of songs and being able to present those songs correctly is an important factor, as is being able to sing the correct song at the appropriate time. A drum can know lots of songs, but if they sing them at the wrong time, what's the point? Sound quality is important. I've always been taught that a good drum group should sound like one strong singer, not eight individuals. I personally think its very important for everyone singing to know the words to a song if it has them because you can't sing something with passion if you have no idea what you're singing. Well, just some thoughts to get the ball rolling, Scott

  • #2
    For sure: They've gotta do good jingle-dress songs!

    "As long as dancing is cultivated, civilization progresses; but no sooner is the interdict set forth against it, than the people who were once refined by its inspiration, relapse into barbarism."
    - Thomas Hilgrove, 1856


    • #3
      the drum should know enough songs that they do not repeat any that they or anyone else have already sang.
      they should sound good together and you should be able to dance to it.
      i went to a pow wow in Ny the other week and there was a drum there that would speed up and slow down the song whenever they felt like it.



      • #4
        I think there's many things that make a good drum.
        1. A good head singer
        2. A healthy knowledge of songs
        3. Consistantcy
        4. Women singers are always a plus
        5. Dependability
        6. A different sound than anyone else, people get tired of hearing the same old sound.
        7. Everyone must get along with each other. No bad feelings. If you like who you're singing with, you'll have more fun and sound better.
        There's more but thats all for now. These things are just what I feel are important.

        The expressed opinions above are not particularly the opinions of the author's friends, family, or employer.


        • #5
          I really like this topic!

          A good drum? Are talking about from the outside looking in or inside looking out?

          I think that looking from the outside,
          *A drum must have some volume, because the PA systems don't always help.
          *The members should be respectful to the other drums and dancers and spectators. Too many drums show no respect during give aways and anouncments.
          *The drum must know what song is appropriate for each point of a dance or special.
          *A drum must know how to sing a song correctly. The speed of the song for each style of song being sung.

          Looking from the inside I think that OTR got it right when he said that a drum must get along. I feel that a drum must be like a family. Not always getting along, but caring enough to try hard to remeber that all the members are part of the drum and that the drum can be only as strong as the weakest part.
          Respect for the Traditions, the songs, the dancers, the members of the drum it's self.


          • #6
            My late father told me a drum needs 7 men to be successful, They should all speak or at least understand their language. They must be balanced and clean.

            One man was responsible for the drum, annother for the frame, another for the sticks and as important as the rest, four men each responsible for the "Chocan"
            or canes often seen on old style drums.

            My father as am I is the holder of these "Chocanak" Talking to elders about sining is important. many men can sing, but they cannot sing well in a group. It takes practice and cooperation. Laerning the origin of songs and their respective meanings helps singers to become bomnded with tyhe song, drum and other men.

            Appropriate ceremonies to bless the drum and singers is a must. Knowing old style of singing and drumming ia also important.

            Connecting with a kind lead singer and drum keeper who is reputable will help one to learn properly. Having no non-indians is a must. Women standing behind is a powerful gift to any drum, but they must also be learned in the traditions of singing, songs and the drum.

            Preparation prior to sining is important, in whatever manner one practices, ie: sweetgrass, prayer, meditation, etc.

            Just a few ideas for anyone of saulteaux, lakota or Cree descent! Not even!!!



            • #7
              Hey B,
              Great point again. Way back in the late 60's and early 70's, there were some awesome Blackfeet singers, DennyBlackRider and Orton EagleSpeaker, that didn't hit the hide for the first half verse, they tapped the side of the drum, then when the Honor beat was a total of four, the whole group started hitting in sequence. It was truely beautiful. Does anyone know if this still happens? The other two i forgot to mention was Percy and his son Bobby Bullchild.



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