A Closer Look at Native American Indigenous Music

Reference to Native Americans points to the different ethnic tribes already inhabiting the great mass of land discovered by mistake by Christopher Columbus. The Italian explorer’s original mission was to pave the way for the colonization of a Southeast Asian land in the East Indies, particularly the Indonesian or Philippine archipelagos, for and in behalf of the monarchs of Spain.

However, as history has it, Columbus made some sort of mistake in his navigation that led him to western part that brought the expedition to the New World.

Actually, the natives inhabiting the New World were part of a migrating nomadic tribe from a yet undetermined ethnicity, but largely believed to belong to the Mayan civilization.Yet at that time, Columbus was still unaware that the continent he discovered was not part of the Indies; thus, the constant reference to the New World natives as Indians.

Distinguishing Characteristics of Native American Indigenous Music

Native American traditional music is very different from ancient Asian traditional music. At that time, the latter was largely influenced by Indian culture. The few studies that attempted to account the origins of Native American music found links to Inca culture and its genre of historical songs. Another possible link was based on the musical instruments carved by ancient Aztecs, which also indicated the time, the occasion and for whom the instruments were played.

Native American indigenous music was significant to native ceremonies, and involved mostly singing, dancing and feasting activities. Gatherings referred to as pow wow or powow, were held mainly as friendly conferences. A powow usually had a host drum, pounced on by a group of 8 to 11 of the menfolk, while women took part by singing along with the drummers.

In addition to the host drum, guests to the conference likewise brought their own set of drums, singers and other indigenous musical instruments. Dancers would then step into dances of celebration according to the rhythm and style of the drum beat.

Types of Powow Indigenous Music

The rhythms and styles of drumbeat depended on the drum group, which in turn depended on the region where their tribes are located. Northern Plain tribes included Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne, Cree, Crow and the Lacota. Their drumbeat style is said to be fast, while singing is largely high-pitched.

In contrast, low-pitched style of singing and a slower drum beat is attributed to the Ponca and Kiowa tribes that inhabited the Southern Plains. Southern style Native American indigenous music is characterized as more reserved.

Yet not all southern plain powow drummers are into the slower Southern Style drumbeat. The drummers of the Navajo Nation, which is a southwest tribe, are well known for being excellent Northern Style drummers.

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