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Honor Beat Question

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  • Honor Beat Question

    I'm posting this under Northern, but it is meant for both Northern and Southern.

    I was at a powwow this past weekend and something I have wondered about before came up for me again.

    When this one singer was so into the song and he did the honor beats, instead of them being "honoring" they seemed abusive to me. He hit the drum with everything he had. I didn't feel very good about it, so I was wondering, Is there a proper way to do this, or a standard to follow?

    Also, I was wondering is it different for Northern and Southern, and just why ARE honor beats done?
    Last edited by Mato Winyan; 01-01-2002, 05:56 AM.
    "We see it as a desecration not only of a mountain but of our way of life. This is a genocidal issue to us. If they kill this mountain, they kill our way of life." ~Debra White Plume

  • #2
    Good question, Mato.

    It was taught to me many years ago when I took singing that the honor beats were done four times to honor the Spirits of the directions. Only four.

    You shouldn't concern yourself with the hardness of the beats. Sometimes the rest of the singers are beating the drum with a lot of exuberance and the one doing the honor beats has to go a little harder to be heard.
    Usually though, the rest of the group will let up a little in order that the emphasis on honor beats could be heard.

    Nowadays, there appears to be more honor beats given by the contemporary groups. I have never sat with a contemp group so I cannot speak for them as to why there are so much more honor beats in their songs. Perhaps some of the contemp singers would like to fill you in on that.

    It is a good topic Mato Winyan and it is always good to ask. By the way, do you raise your fan during honor beats and why?

    There are a lot of good questions concerning the whys, whens, wheres & ifs concerning singing and dancing and there are so many nations on board here that you should be able to get your answers somehow. :) Have a good one!


    • #3
      Why do southern drums use 3 honor beats? Whats the story behind that?

      "There is nothing more dangerous than ignorance in action."


      • #4
        If you are dancing and the song has both northern and southern honor beats in the same push, which do you honor? Both? If you have never heard this, I know this question sounds wild, but I was listening to tape the other day and I heard that. I was like :Thinking Grant it, it was a fancy dance song. Will it always be in a fancy dance song? Or will I have to look out for it as well being a traditional dancer. Which do you honor? Just curious. I will find out the name of the song and group and post it later so people don't think I'm crazy!:D


        • #5
          Well, I can't speak for northern but in my years of singing southern I was taught that the term 'honor beats' or 'hard beats' are kinda a new way of referring to them. They are actually called 'goshga' (sp) beats which roughly translates to "listen I have something to say". They are/were used to mark the point in a song where the words would come in (ie. someone name, etc.). They also kinda give a certain rhythm to the song.

          Many of the old school singers (for lack of a better term) I know are not big on beating the drum hard, especially since it (the drum) is considered to be a living thing and is often referred to as 'the old man'. In my opinion the really hard beating on the drum done by some singers seems to be something that has come out of contesting. It is sorta a more modern thing and is still up to debate as to whether it will last.

          I have never heard of or been told of a reason why 3 beats are used in most southern songs. I say most because some groups like O- ha-ma lodge often use only 2 beats.

          As far as which to follow I would say that would depend on the style you dance, and what your tribal traditions dictates.

          "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Pablo Picasso

          "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift...that is why is it called the Present." Master Oogway - KungFu Panda

          My comments are based on what I have been taught and my experiences over the years I have been around the circle. They should in no way be taken as gospel truths and are merely my opinions or attempts at passing on what I have learned while still learning more.


          • #6
            There is really no reason for singers to beat the hell out of a drum. Even when the hard beats come in, the other singers should ease up on the drum so the hard beats can be distinguished.

            Even if you feel no spiritual significance to the drum, you should at least respect it as an instrument and not beat the crap out of it. It's like the moron rockers that bash their guitars-- just stupid, shock-value antics for show.

            Granted, each drum is different. Some hides may be thicker and looser, so it takes more oomph to get sound out of it, but anyone with vision can see where Mato Winyan is coming from . . .

            As far as hard beats, they aren't even a required part of the song. (They do break up the monotony of a song however and give the dancers a cue to mix it up a bit). I've heard from some people that they weren't even used "back in the day."

            Just my opinions and observations, take it, leave it, whatever.
            Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


            • #7
              During honor beats a drum will lighten their beat.....honor beats are done out of respect to the drum and are a time for dancers to give honor to the earth,sky,drum.....mostly northern dancers raise their fans or staffs to the sky......but i am a straight dancer and at that time throught the song when three beats hit in between verses on a southern drum i will touch my stick to the earth and bend over and prey untill the lead starts then i will start dancing upright again.....itokasniye probably knows what im talkin about
              (as he picks up a handfull of dirt and drops it) "Even this much land i will not sell"
              Tatanka Yotanka


              • #8
                By the way, do you raise your fan during honor beats and why?
                Depends if I'm dancing Northern or not. If I am then yes, to honor the drum, the creator, bless the people..........

                Thanks guys for all of your feedback.
                DCP Thanks for understanding.

                This drum did let up on the beat. The drum itself is a LOUD drum. Nice sound!! It was just this guy. He hammered it with full force....(((((BAM>>BAM>>BAM)))))

                I got a not so good feeling instead of being uplifted.
                "We see it as a desecration not only of a mountain but of our way of life. This is a genocidal issue to us. If they kill this mountain, they kill our way of life." ~Debra White Plume


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