Native American music and dance is as diverse as the many tribes themselves. Most traditional Native songs and dances can be linked to ceremonies or social gatherings. Today Native musicians and dancers continue their traditional forms, and also draw from these for inspiration as they create new forms of music and dance that combine elements from Western music, other tribes’ traditions and their own imagination. The Arizona State Museum’s 20th Annual Southwest Indian Art Fair is proud to present performances reflecting this diversity, a plethora of talent and creativity with strong ties to cultural traditions.
We thank Canyon Records for their sponsorship of performances at SWAIF this year and many past. Canyon Records is one of the oldest independent recording labels in existence that produces and distributes Native American music representing many tribes and styles. They will have albums for sale at SWIAF including the just-released album of R. Carlos Nakai and Will Clipman, Awakening the Fire.
Performing at the museum on Saturday, February 23rd and Sunday, February 24th are:
Of Navajo-Ute heritage, R. Carlos Nakai is the world’s premier performer of the Native American flute. As an artist, he is an adventurer and risk taker, combining traditional forms with other genres and his rich musical imagination. He enjoys exploring how the traditional Native American flute can add to and borrow from other traditions, creating new musical expressions.
Nakai’s performances and recordings embrace diversity. He has performed extensively with a traditional Japanese ensemble, Tibetan flutist and chanter Nawang Khechog, Hawaiian slack key guitarist and singer Keola Beamer, and with Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Udi Bar-David combinding Native American melodies with Jewish and Arabic songs. With his Quartet Nakai explores the intersection of ethnic and jazz idioms, and with symphonies and chamber orchestras he explores the blend of traditional flute with classical music.
Nakai has 37 albums on the Canyon Records label, plus additional albums and guest appearances on other labels. His records Canyon Trilogy and Earth Spirit are the first and only Native American recordings to earn two Gold Records. He has sold over four million albums, received nine GRAMMY nominations and eight Native American Music Awards. He holds a Master’s Degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona, was awarded the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award (1992) and was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame (2005).
Will Clipman will be performing with R. Carlos Nakai. Clipman plays a pan-global palette of indigenous instruments in addition to the traditional drum set. In a career that spans nearly every known musical genre, Clipman has recorded over fifty albums, including 21 for Canyon Records, where he is regarded as the house percussionist. Currently Clipman records and performs with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet, the William Eaton Ensemble, the Wilde Boys, Gentle Thunder, Ananeah, Quiet Fire, Sacred Clay, and the Conrads. He has received five GRAMMY nominations for Best New Age Album and Best Native American Album; a Native American Music Award for Best Instrumental Album; and a TAMMIE Award for Best Drummer.
The Cellicion Traditional Zuni Dancers perform traditional dances, songs and stories from Zuni Pueblo in southwestern New Mexico, as well as dances and music adapted from other tribal groups in the Southwest. Dances performed include the Eagle, Pottery, Turkey, Deer and White Buffalo dances. Group leader Fernando Cellicion plays his own compositions and Plains-style songs on the Native American flute.
The group was founded 30 years ago by Fernando’s father. Its members span several generations and are related by blood, marriage or clan. They now have a junior group that also performs. They have performed throughout the United States at festivals and powwows, in Washington, DC at the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center and Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and internationally, touring in Canada, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific.
The Dishchii’bikoh Apache Dancers are from Cibecue, one of the five Western Apache (Ndee or Indé) tribes living in the mountainous region of eastern Arizona. Dishchii’bikoh, whose members span generations, has taken their dances to museums, schools and festivals primarily in the Southwest. At SWIAF they will perform Ga’an dances and a women’s warrior dance honoring all Apache women warriors.
The Ga’an are the spiritual ancestors of the Apache. They live in sacred caves in the mountains from which they watch over the Apache, protecting them and ensuring their wellbeing. At times the Ga’an leave their home to teach the Apache the correct way to live or to use their spiritual powers to heal. Crown Dancers embody the Ga’an in this physical world serving as the Apache’s connection to the Mountain Spirit People. Each group of Crown Dancers consists of five dancers—four Ga’an who represent the four sacred directions and a care taker who communicates with the Spirit people. Ga’an Dancers are instrumental in healing and cleansing ceremonies, including in the Sunrise ceremony, an Apache girl’s traditional coming of age ceremony.
The Apache were well known for their skilled warriors, but generally the attention is on the male warriors. Apache women have also been warriors, and in modern times, they serve as some of the United States’ top wild fire fighters.
Estun-Bah and Tony Duncan
(Performing Saturday at 11:30, Sunday at 10:00)
Estun-bah consists of Tony Duncan on Native American flute, Darrin Yazzie on guitar and Jeremy Dancing Bull on traditional Native American drums and percussion. Estun-Bah is an Apache word meaning “for the woman.” The Native American flute was traditionally used as a courting instrument. A man would play on his flute before approaching a woman to show his honor and respect for the woman.
Five-time World Champion hoop dancer Tony Duncan (Apache & Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan) incorporates both the soutwestern and Northern Plains styles of song and dance in his performances. An accomplished pow-wow and hoop dancer, he recently performed in a Nelly Furtado music video. In the hoop dance Duncan creates many intricate designs inspired by nature, such as ones representing the eagle and the world.
Darrin Yazzie (Navajo), from Chinle, Arizona, is the composer of many of Estun-Bah’s songs. Jeremy Dancing Bull (Arikara/Hidatsa)grew up in North Dakota on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. He learned from, and was inspired by, his father who also played the drums.
Estan-Bah has performed extensively for schools, festivals and corporate events. Among these, they performed for United States First Lady Laura Bush, at the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe’s Indian Market and at the Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow.
Laguna Corn Dancers
(Performing Saturday at 10:30, Sunday at 11:00)
The Laguna Corn Dancers are from Laguna Pueblo, near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Phillip Marmoleho started the group in 2006 while still a sophomore in high school. The group, consisting of teens and young adults from the Pueblo, performs traditional dances such as the Buffalo, Corn and Eagle dances. The main goal of the group is to ensure survival of the Keresan language, culture and traditions among the youth.
No:ligk Traditional Singers and Dancers
(Performing Saturday at 2:45, Sunday at 3:00)
The No:ligk Traditional Singers and Dancers are from the Tohono O’odham Nation in the southwestern part of Arizona. The Tohono O’odham are the Desert People. For centuries before the Spanish arrived they had adapted their lives to the cycles of the desert environment taking advantage of the wild abundance of the Sonoran Desert. They hunted, gathered plants, and made use of the summer rains to sustain crops. They wove baskets to collect, transport and store their foods. They practiced ceremonies, such as the Nawait that relates to the cycle of rains. Ceremonies, songs, dances and basket making that have supported their desert life continue to be an important part of the O’odham culture today.
The group was formed 15 years ago under the direction of Christine Johnson to preserve Tohono O’odham heritage and identity for the younger generations and to promote basketmaking. Her daughter, son and granddaughter help teach the songs and dances. The dances include the Basket dance and a Friendship dance. The Basket dance symbolizes the weaving of a basket. As the dancers acknowledge the four directions they pay homage to basketweavers around the world. The songs speak to the creation of the earth and its relation to those who inhabit it.
This blog was written by Lisa Falk, ASM’s director of education, who coordinates the performances for SWIAF each year.