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  • song rights

    in looking at some of the other discussions, i thought this might make for a good one. have any of you ever had problems with songs you sing because you learned you didnt have "the right" to sing it??? for instance, my drum back home had a problem about a year ago because we learned a song at noac and used it at a powwow. the maker of that song was at the powwow and threatened to take our drum if we sang any of his songs again. what do you guys have to say???

    "only when all are brothers can the music be moving" -Kurt Powless

  • #2
    There are songs that are restricted as to who can sing them. Ponca say that the songs are put into the drum. If say a family song has not been put in the drum, it will be restricted to only certain singers. The Ponca have a hard time with people recording songs that are sung at dances without the proper ok's. This some times includes their own people. Learn as much about a song before you sing it. Hope this helps. It is not easy. Takes a lot of years to half-way know enough and you never stop learning.


    • #3
      My first question is what is NOAC?

      Some songs are written for families or certain persons...sometimes the songs written r given to drums that the composer doesn't sing with...i have done that a couple times...i like to write word songs but my group doesn't sing them...we sing only straight songs...Sometimes songs are retired and shouldn't be sang could have been for someone that passed away or any other reason...our head singer wrote a song for his dad a few years ago when he was HS for Stoney Creek...well when his dad pasted away last year he retired the song and composed another to replace it...he also let other groups know about it...but seeing that the song was recorded and out on tapes not everyone will know...but just something u have to think about while singing other peoples songs...
      i talked to Boss Gardipy of Wild Horse the other day on this subject... He told me that thier songs where composed to sing them...
      The best idea i have is to ask the group that sings the song if u can sing it...and just remember to sing it right and always sing for the people.


      Work like you don't need the money, Love like you never been hurt, and Dance like nobody is watching.

      Work like you don't need the money, Love like you've never been hurt, and Dance like no one is watching.


      • #4
        Yup, definately something to be careful about. You should always know if a song you're singing belongs to a family or individual just as you should know the correct words and their meaning, what type of song it is,etc... I 've learned a couple of great songs but can't sing them unless I'm with the guy who taught them to me. They belong to a certain family and he sang with them for many years before I new him, but I don't know the family, so I don't have rights to the songs. I have heard some of them on tape recorded at powwows but not put out professionaly so this is where you can run into problems with those 'rules'. Best advice, know the source of the song before you sing it and don't be 'tape happy'!


        • #5
          Did you sing the song the way it was composed?
          Did you learn the song correcty?
          Did you ask around about the song to see if it was "on the drum", who composed it, who's it was and when to sing it?

          Many people who compose songs do so for different reasons. Many songs are made for certain families, organizations or even certain people. You may have sung one of these particular songs. I can understand why people get upset about people using songs.

          There's many songs around that I have no business singing. Theyre not mine. I know many of these songs, but dont sing them at powwows.

          A few sugestions: Learn as much as you possibly can about every song you sing. Its important to know the history behind these songs. Learn them correctly, from the composer if possible. Dont depend on commercial tapes, they can be dangerous. Indian House seems to have the best explainations of songs. They dont tell everything however. Talk to people who are better singers than you, they generally know more about songs than others. Get to know them, dont just use as a source for information. Theres more to people than their knowledge. Finally, have fun, powwows are for everyone. I wish you luck.


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


          • #6
            Originally posted by TrueWarrior:

            My first question is what is NOAC?

            Ancial: NOAC stands for National Order of Arrow Conference. It is held every 2 years and is attended by OA (Order of the Arrow) members from all over the USA. The OA is an honor camper/service society within the boy scouts and much of it is based on the legend of the Lenni Lanape Indians. If you make it to the AICA pow wow, you will meet several OA 'brothers'.



            • #7
              You are speaking in generalities a bit much. You say you learned the song at NOAC. Who taught it to you? Who composed the song?

              I remember at the last NOAC, there wasn't any song teaching going on at the Northern Singing sessions, I was at all of them.
              There was discussion about song structure, types of songs, demonstration of song types, Q and A, etc. Makes me wonder where the song came from . . .

              I started a similar topic some time ago that lasted a bit and died out. Can't hurt to rehash-

              The best way to acquire songs is to be given the songs by the composers.

              Is it okay to learn from tapes? I've been told that if a song is put on commercial recordings, it's open game, but I sometimes feel leary about this (Sometimes it will be marked "Drum Song" or "Such-in such's Song," so obviously stay clear of these). I guess it's not "wrong," but it's not great.

              I've been told that a song performed as a general powwow song is open game.

              I've also been told that if a song is done publicly with no mention of ownership, that it's open game.

              These things I've mentioned all came from respected fullbloods of various tribes that I know. Doesn't help much does it?

              Another issue to discuss- Who has the right to compose songs. I've been told that one has to earn the right to compose songs. I've also been told that if a song "comes to you" it is basically a gift and should be used. Any thoughts on this?
              Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


              • #8
                *wow* where am I, everyone should know this.

                mmm?..well...maybe not...anyway. The Drums are sacred, the songs are holy, people must learn how to take care of both including everything that comes with it.


                Simply tho for songs...You must get your rights to each and every song you sing. If you make your own, get it blessed and copyrighted. If a song is copyrighted it is illegal to sing AND profit from it. Old Way tho is all "Unwritten" but simply says you must acquire the rights from the drun or the composer. If you take it without that, they can take your drum from you, fine you $500 bucks or more, then ask you to leave the pow-wow; ESPECIALLY if you take a flag song, honor song, veteran song, or victory song. Intertribals and contests are more lenient.

                Now that big money contests at the bigger pow-wows are so vital for traveling drums, the rules are changing, where you cannot sing any song that is not your own. I guess it's up to the drum if they are there, the composer or the singing judges then the arena director onto the pow-wow committee.

                But please don't just listen to that good song and try to compete with it. If it's a small pow-wow and you just wanna make em dance then yeah go ahead go for it, but beware you might get busted. Seriously.

                It's just best to make your own, and even with that there are so many rights that need to be given first.
                Jude Fox
                Hidatsa/Mandan & Cree


                • #9
                  Jude Fox, well let’s just say you bring up some ‘very interesting’ points in your above posting.

                  If you are part of a new drum group (e.g. scout group) I would say it’s ill advised to compose your own songs. Stick to the classics you’ll do just fine. Just a word of warning you have to know when/where to sing it – you don’t want to sing a flag song as an intertribal. As for finding out if a song is ‘on the drum’ a general rule is if it’s on a commercial tape it’s normally fair game. As for seeking the right to sing a song from its composer(s) please explain to me how people today are still singing songs that are 100 years old? Their dead you’re alive, you can’t now can you? However, if your at a dance and a say Black Stone brings out a new song you have never heard before, I would ask questions about the song (what the words are, who composed it, is it ‘on the drum’ etc.).

                  The copyright comments above are really incorrect, if you’re interested in learning more you can go and read Title 17 US Code. If you pick let’s say a song off of one of Black Lodge’s commercial tapes and learn it and sing it correctly there is no copyright violation. However, if you are copying the entire tape for resale in order to make a profit then you can be held legally responsible. Now at a powwow, if you sing a family song with out permission all hell can break loose and it is possible that your drum might be taken and you’re asked to leave. I would suggest that you pay for your mistake, but as for them charging $500.00 legally they can not do that – it helps to know the law.


                  • #10
                    I think one item needs to be clarified a bit. I know down south the phrase "on the drum" is well known and understood. I do not think there is a northern equivalent to this phrase (it would be nice if one existed so everyone could simply ask "Is this song "on the drum?"). Songs up north are harder to "research" because of this.

                    I have heard of various stories about what can happen when a drum screws up royally. Jude may have been illustrating the practice in that neck of the woods. I have heard stories of drums being taken for a year, fines imposed, and the worst I heard of was a knife run through the head of the drum (Real stories or "legend," I don't know for certain, I've only heard about it).

                    I would hope that a mistake could be paid for and the person in error be educated in a positive way. Everyone makes mistakes.

                    (On the other hand, I know of a drum (mainly non-Indian) that often sings the AIM song as an intertribal. This drum has been asked repeatedly not to do this, but does what it wants regardless. What to do about this?)
                    Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


                    • #11
                      I got to says i like northern over suthern any day of thw weak. As for yall researching them there songs whys is to goosh picken hard to find anythin about them. I bben to one of those dances and it seems to me that theres a whole bunch of people around those drums with recorders and such whys that. I woundlnt call that research as yall have stated thats like reocrding something on the tv to watch later, yous dont no anyhting more then whats there signing. I sa this much if anyones trys to stick a knife in mys drum theys be sorry.

                      yall are some crazy people i take to yous later. oh yeas whos need to spell correct manyways


                      • #12

                        Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


                        • #13
                          Native Bob, lets just say that was an interesting post and I’ll leave it at that. However, one of his comments does bring up a very valid point. We have all seen the recorders going at a dance, but how many singers actually research the song from that point? I’ll say that with southern singers, I’ve have found that only about 1/8 to 1/4 of them actually take the time to do the research, the rest just sing the song how they think it sounds causing an array of problems.

                          DCP, I’ll agree that northern songs can sometimes be harder to research. In spite of this, I think that if the newer groups out there would just ask some questions – I think they would find the information they receive very useful.

                          Just my opinions.

                          [This message has been edited by SingerMD (edited June 12, 2000).]


                          • #14
                            geez guys- half the time I don't know where you are coming from and apparently some of you don't either...this is an attempt to enlighten some on the subject of some northern drums that you might be talking about...

                            here's a few cents from the northwoods...

                            alot of the drums up here are traditional drums in comparison to drums not bass drums...drums with staffs...never on a blanket and never at a contest.

                            each of these traditional drums has a drum keeper and helpers that go with that drum...the drum also has a history and is often generations and generations older than the singers who sit at these drums...

                            the research for those songs have come from the teachings of that drum and were handed on...each morning before the pow-wow those singers gather in the arbor with the old men of those drums and songs are passed with the teachings of the songs, in addition, these drums have ceremonies for that gift of the drum where the helpers come together to carry out what needs to be done for these drums...from one generation to another...the songs of the drum have been sung around that drum from the time it came to be...the songs have been passing for generations and the teachings are a part of it...the songs have history and lessons and have purpose...

                            and if you gotta ask, I don't think you were given it?? if it is yours, you became a part of it through the teaching of it...and most likely you were invited to sit at that drum as a very young man and perhaps some day you might carry that drum...

                            I know nothing of contemporary drums and competition and therefore won't comment on this practice.


                            • #15
                              I want to thank Miigwan for the Ojibwa perspective on traditional drums.

                              Not much has been spoken about concerning differences between contemporary and traditional drums. There are differences between traditional and "modern" singing, and there are differences from tribe to tribe, reservation to reservation, etc.

                              For example, some drums only sing powwow, where others take part in ceremony as well as powwow. I hope you good folks will share input on this matter.

                              Keep posting, and let's try to remain positive. I have heard some complaints that this discussion board has turned ugly and is no longer informative. I would have to agree.

                              Take care,
                              Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


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