Kevin Locke & Douglas Good Feather | Lightning & Wind

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World: Native American Easy Listening: Love Songs Moods: Type: Lyrical
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Lightning & Wind

by Kevin Locke & Douglas Good Feather

In this album, two renowned masters of Plains Indigenous music introduce archive recordings of Lakota elders singing traditional songs of the wiílowaŋ genre, most closely translated as "serenades" or "songs of women".
Genre: World: Native American
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Hé Miyé Ye
6:28 $0.99
2. Tákuwe Oyáglakiŋ Na Iyótiyewakiye?
5:31 $0.99
3. Howókawiŋh Waú We
5:53 $0.99
4. Očhíčihiŋyiŋ Kte
5:45 $0.99
5. Yaú Čháŋna Iyápi Óta Ye
4:58 $0.99
6. Amáphe Nážiŋ Yé
5:07 $0.99
7. Napé Mayúza Yé
7:21 $0.99
8. Nióiye Wéksuye
6:40 $0.99
9. Théhaŋ Níŋ Kte
6:11 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Whether during the solitude of the hunt, cattle drives or family gatherings during the long winters, stories and songs passed the time … and kept the culture alive. The familiar impression of the Lakota Sioux Native Americans is of fierce warriors ruling the prairie on horseback – singing their prayers, laments, or calls to battle. But What of the tender heart within? What of love and romance? Lakota are human beings, and their songs of love in all its joys and disappointments have been sung for centuries.

This album introduces archive recordings of Lakota elders singing traditional songs of the wiílowaŋ genre, which is most closely translated as “serenade” or “songs of women.” These recordings document an authentic Lakota sound, which comes from the voice first and later is translated to the flute. Going back nearly forty years, the old-time singers had these serenading songs in their repertoire and they taught them to me.

Singing traditions demonstrate the very strict gender roles of the old Lakota culture. Women were not singers or flute players – at least not in public – but their side of a conversation or romance could be turned into a song. So all of these lyrics are what the woman said to the man, but the man is singing the song.

These songs originate from the Elk Dreamer Society. This group was responsible for making songs for people who needed to say something in music and dance. They also made flutes, and put on feasts and dance performances to keep the music flowing and developing throughout the culture. When the Elk appeared in your dreams, that was the sign that your gift to the people would be music and dance.

The serenading genre is the only genre of traditional music I have encountered that can start from either the lowest note or the highest note of the scale. All other indigenous music starts at highest note and cascades down the scale.

Serenading songs also follow a formula, like a haiku. The opening phrase is repeated three times at the beginning – an incomplete thought, something that gets the listener wondering what this is about. Then the next phrase gives substance and illuminates the meaning of the first phrase. The first part of the song is structurally quite different from the second part. It changes substantively unlike any other genre of indigenous music.

If you look at the genre, over the prairie and woodlands, you see same rules of song structure apply – so perhaps this form of song genre has a meaning that goes beyond the individual tribe or their geographic area. This haiku-like feature and the formulaic composition rules are so standardized throughout both the southern and northern plains and the woodlands that it suggests that this is a very old and well developed genre.

Late 19th century and early 20th century ethnographers were not aware that all flute performances are derived from vocal compositions hence early recordings usually only captured one or the other, notable exceptions to this are recordings of Belo Cozad (Kiowa) and John Colhoff (Lakota) who insisted on not separating flute and voice and documented both. In 1970 when I first became interested in this genre even though there were but a handful of surviving flute players, nearly every traditional singer had a stock of wiílowaŋ in his/her repertoire. Today, very few singers are even aware of the existence of the wiílowaŋ genre.

Wiílowaŋ flourished in the context of the pre-reservation social structure in which the genders were separated upon adolescence in order that they could concentrate on mastering all of the traditional subsistence skills required. Once these skills were mastered the young men and women were eligible for marriage. Wiílowaŋ in both vocal and instrumental forms developed as a means of bridging the inter gender communication gap. At one time wiílowaŋ were commonplace and everyone was familiar with this genre, so much so that a specialized vocabulary arose to describe the subtle nuances expressed: wióište olówaŋ (embarrasment song), wikúŋ olówaŋ (coveting song), wióyuspa olówaŋ (capturing song), wiínaȟma olówaŋ (secretive song), and so on. The full range of human emotions, tragedy and humor are portrayed through the medium of wiílowaŋ.

Even though the social context giving rise to wiílowaŋ disappeared during the early reservation period its entertainment value persevered well into the 20th century. Ben Black Bear Sr. shared that before extensive fencing the older men would sing these songs to pass time during long cattle drives. Eli Taylor from Sioux Valley, Manitoba stated that in his youth (circa 1910 – 1920) they would make and sing these songs just for fun. Peter Looking Horse from Cannonball, North Dakota recalled many of these songs from when his father and brothers would get together and sing during long winter evenings.

I clearly remember witnessing around 1970 how a group of several women from Lake of the Woods, Ontario demonstrated Jingle Dress dancing during the United Tribes Powwow in Bismarck, North Dakota and how the local people sat in spellbound amazement at the dynamism and power of this dance style and its accompanying distinctive vocal compositions. This was the first time that Jingle Dress dancing and music had been introduced outside its limited Woodlands place of origin and now it has spread so fast as to become one of the most widely practiced women's dances – as it should since it portrays the grace, power and dignity of womanhood and as such imparts its healing grace to all.

Recently a very beautiful and distinctive vocal genre called Double Beat was revived by a handful of traditional singers (notably Sarge Old Horn from Crow Agency, Montana). The same scenario holds for many other formerly endangered music styles. It is our hope and prayer that the once common wiílowaŋ will reemerge as a vibrant mode of expression. Through this compilation we hope to reintroduce this style of music to the younger generation of singers who will be able to make it their own and continue to compose and sing songs of love and joy!



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