The Musical Charm of American Natives

The Musical Charm of American Natives

 

Credit: George Catlin, Comanche Feats of Horsemanship, 1834-35

Native American Music

Native American music is the music created by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. For thousands and thousands of years, North American natives have been using music as means to preserve their culture, history, and identity. Through every tribe from the Arapaho tribe, to the Navajo tribe, the charm of their traditional arts passed down from generation to generation is admirable.

For thousands of years before Anno Domini (AD), music has been widely important to the daily lives and traditions of the Native Americans due to the historical importance it had to them over the past thousands of years when little technology existed.

To shamanism, (a religious belief) and history and traditions passed down to generations, music is an important and divine part of the lives of native Americans which is shown by how the tribes view songs as property, and how they link their musical masterpieces to the Creator in a religious and spiritual sense.

 Native American music mostly consists of percussion and vocals. Percussion creates a steady beat for performers to base their performance on using non-lexical vocables and their language (different ones in different tribes) using rasps, bells, clap sticks, drums, and rattles.

Songs usually begin slowly which becomes slightly quicker with more emphasis and force into the piece with subtle shouts that can add to the song. This adds variety to the music and makes it catchy, but also simple. Speaking of simplicity, usual melodies from many different tribes are mostly tritonic and pentatonic.

Vocals in native American musical pieces are in quite a variety of tones. Sharp, tense, and even loosen, relaxing sounds. With this variety of tones, there are also wide usages of falsetto and vocal vibrato. (male singers singing notes higher than their voice usually sings) These unexpected, but catchy additions of expression to the music adds elements to the song that can enthusiastically be used to tell stories about the tribe’s history and be used to carry about traditions and religious rituals.

 Native American music also has sex-based roles and rules. The Cherokee tribe before stickball games holds dances. This is a big example of sex-based roles and rules in sing and dancing. Men dance in circles around a flame while women dance in stationed areas.

The men usually do the singing as the women have their songs sung by native American elders (those who provide knowledge, leadership, information, and history that passes down to new generations). These sex roles also different have roles in the dance as well. The men call on power to their stickball team, while the women remove power from the rival team.

 

Instruments Used

 

  • Drums (Water drum)
  • Rattles
  • Bells
  • Flutes (Anasazi flute) (Native American flute)
  • Idiophones
  • Membranophones
  • Aerophones
  • Chordophones
  • Apache fiddle
  • Clapper stick
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