Northern Cree and Friends a great powwow album
|Written by Jamison Mahto,
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Indigenous In Music CD Review
Northern Cree and Friends
Vol. 5/Long Winter Nights
Round Dance Live CD Review
The Cree Nations occupy lands and territories in Canada and the mere diversity of languages and cultures means this Tribe is a real gold mine full of color and creativity. The title “Long Winter Nights” is a reference to the storytelling, dancing and eating that went on throughout the winter season. During the Canadian winter (and closer to the arctic circle) there wasn’t much you could do outside so social gatherings were very important in combating an otherwise boring time. Despite the weather these were significant occasions in establishing your clan’s traditions and identity.
The stuttering round dance drumbeat is similar in all of these songs
and is a reflection of our various nations’ heartbeats. Some rides are
low and slow, a moveable feast of motion, traffic and deep searching of
soul, bike trails and shy hellos to other riders as they pass,
generally going in the opposite direction. Of course, the older I get
the less I push and the more I just simply enjoy the scenery. This is a
search for peace of mind as much as anything and I generally listen to
traditional music to set the tone for the ride.
Powwow is about socializing. Despite the prevalent popularity of
competitive contest powwows the best ones are still the traditional
gatherings that happen in celebration. There are dances that bring
people together in a romantic mood and it is very reserved and
traditional. One of those dances is the round dance. This compilation
CD has songs that lift your heart into a very romantic space and yes, I
will get to hold the hand of my intended and look into her eyes and
tell her exactly how I feel without speaking a word.
This CD contains the work of the Northern Cree, Whitefish Jrs., Big
River Cree, Ken Pooyak, Jack Bull, Perfect Storm, Arnold Pete, and Bear
Creek. This is one of the CDs in a larger colletion.
In almost all of contemporary music, the musicians will do what they
call “breaking it down.” The musicians will all back off on the volume
and some will drop out altogether. Backing out to just a single
instrument, say for instance the bass or drums is a substantial change
and it helps to keep the audience’s attention. It adds tension to the
performance and now the musicians can build it back up, generally
showcasing an improvisational solo by the lead instruments. These
round dance songs include some of those techniques and are probably as
ancient as the drum.
When I go for a spiritual rejuvenation type of a ride I smudge myself
and all of the directions as well as my bike. Since it is a holy
journey that I am now on I continue to pray as I ride listening to some
of the greatest powwow music our communities have to offer. The drums
get thunderous, the singers are gathered around the drum and I realize
that I’m nearly sixty years old and I am getting increasingly tired of
spending so much time alone. I promise myself dinner, phone calls and
It is abundantly clear that the people singing these songs are having a
great time. There are standards of excellence that are being met here.
I watch as an undeniably beautiful, dark-skinned woman shifts her
skirt, pulls her hair out of her eyes and drops down delicately behind
the wheel of a dark gray BMW. It’s an interesting stuttering two-step
drumbeat played with passion; she’s very pretty and oh how that drum is
calling my name.
For more info about this group, see: www.myspace.com/northerncree.