The drum figures prominently in modern powwow celebrations. The beat provides the base rhythm for a wide variety of dance styles. Like every other surviving culture, the music of modern day Native America continues to evolve. If you’ve never listened before, learning to enjoy a new type of music can require an adjustment period. Native lyrics are often a combination of vocable sounds and words from traditional languages. While hundreds of songs exist in various Native languages (and English), most are categorized as either Northern or Southern. Southern style is slower and the singing has a lower pitch.
Powwow season is in hiatus and I’m missing the circuit. For that reason I decided to share several of my favorites from back-in-the-day when I bounced around the social circuit and enjoyed hearing the drums and watching the dancers.
Southern Thunder Singers
Young Bird Singers
If you’d like to learn more about these pan-Indian celebrations and feel adventurous to visit an event, check out www.powwows.com and locate the genuine article in your local area. The rules are simple: learn proper powwow etiquette, listen to the MC, and be respectful – ask before taking photographs and don’t touch anyone’s feathers.
The larger powwows are more commercial in nature but also provide a less insular community for outsiders. They offer bigger prize money for dance and drum competitions which brings in more dancers and the better-known drums. The larger the crowd of spectators, the better the selection of art vendors, so it’s a win-win for everyone. You should come and visit.