Wednesday, March 31, 2010

HUM 221: "SynthacousticpunkarachiNavajazz" - what does it sound like? Carlos Nakai (2 of 2)

Second of two posts on Carlos Nakai, the cedar flute and new directions in which he is taking the tradition. Be ready to blog your response to the music. Ask yourself these variations of the "three questions" we've been asking all semester, and take notes as we watch:
  • What stands out in your mind as you listen to the music? Which styles interest you? Which styles don't?
  • What in your cultural background, musical taste, etc., makes you react that way?
  • What, specifically, in the different styles of music do you react to? Do any differences in your reaction reflect cultural matters or your taste in the style of music, e.g. classical, jazz, rock? Post your response as comments to this blogpost.

R. Carlos Nakai, performs with jazz bands, symphony orchestras and a variety of Asian musicians. As you can guess from his name for it, his music blends traditions from Navajo and jazz to synthesizers, punk rock and New Age.

"I build on the tradition of my culture," Nakai once told Paul de Barros in the Seattle Times [quoted on the eNotes website], "but not 'This is what happened to these people way back when.' This is what's happening to us today."

Nakai performs with jazz bands, symphony orchestras and a variety of Asian musicians. Last year he explained what the traditions of the Navajo (Dine) people mean to him, and how seeks to convey them to a wider audience, as he accepted an award at the Heard Museum of Native American art in Phoenix:

We'll listen as he makes music in a jazz "conversation" - or improvisation - with William Eaton (guitar) and Will Clipman (percussion) last year in a Canyon recording studio. As you listen, please read the excerpt below from a CENGAGE learning module on Nakai's music.

CENGAGE says "Nakai's sound is difficult to describe without reducing it to the pigeonhole category of 'New Age' music" and adds:
In discussing Nakai's music, ethnomusicologist David McAllister points out that references to Nakai's Native American heritage are found throughout his repertoire.

He draws inspiration from mountains, valleys, canyons, wind, rains, sunsets, the scent of juniper, form wildlife, and from the earth itself. His music describes the Southwest particularly and has a vivid sense of his ancestors moving through this landscape. Anasazi ruins, immigration routes, and intertribal cultural references all have an important place in the liner notes of his recordings.

When the 'authenticity' of his work is questioned, Nakai is quick to point out that Native American cultures have been adapting and blending with other cultures since the dawn of time. He cites as an example the adaptation of the horse into Plains Indian cultures after its introduction by Europeans into North America. According to Nakai, Native American music—like most music around the world—is always in a state development and change:

Many of the traditional ceremonial chants that you hear today are very much unlike the chants based on the wax recordings and wire recordings that emanated out of the Smithsonian over time and are performed in a very different manner today. One reason is because of the influence of cultural change and the influence of different philosophies and ways of looking at how we are today.
We'll listen to Nakai at last year's Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, improvising with Keith Secola (of the band Wild Band of Indians) on guitar and Aaron Grigsby on drums.

We'll listen to some more of Nakai's music ... keep the three questions in mind and take notes on your answers, since you'll be writing about them.

Here he plays Reflection 2 from the CD "Reflections" by Mark Holland & Cory Edwards. Also: Mark Holland - Native American Flutes; Cory Edwards - Piano; Ranya Iqbal - Cello; and Jim Feist - Tabla (an East Indian hand drum).

Carlos Nakai plays for the First Nations Composer Initiative (FNCI) in Minneapolis. Below, he improvises in a more avant garde classical style with a cello player:

And here he performs a more traditional piece influenced by Wichita traditions:

Some added notes and links:
A video of Navajo ladies making fry bread outdoors at the community field day in Na'neelzhiin (Torreon), N.M. The fry bread, according to YouTube, was later served for lunch with mutton stew.

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