Saturday, March 10, 2007

Elemental: Sounds from Native America

Louie Gonnie
Meditation Songs from the Dine
Canyon Records

Johnny Mike
My Spirit Soars
Harmonized Peyote Songs
Canyon Records

If you find that you need strong musical medicine, you might try slipping Canyon Records artists, Louie Gonnie's Elements or Johnny Mike's My Spirit Soars into your disc player. While both CDs hail from the Dineh peoples of the American Southwest, the recordings feature different vocal styles. Louie Gonnie performs original compositions a cappella, sometimes double tracking his baritone vocals. While Grammy winner Johnny Mike sings harmonized peyote songs of the Native American Church accompanied by a water drum and rattles.

Gonnie, a prolific painter, song composer and vocalist, features the elements (water, fire, air and earth) on his meditative recording. Similar to his debut, Sacred Mountains, Gonnie's new set of songs connect his listeners to the beauty of the sacred earth.

Gonnie describes Elements' themes, "These songs reflect melodies of the heart. Composed in the Dine language, these songs are about the sacred elements; fire, water, wind and earth. It is the fire that warms us, the water that nourishes our body, and the wind that sweeps away our path. The beating heart of Mother Earth is the rhythm of life." (liner notes)

Canyon Records veteran Johnny Mike brings us another set of solo harmonized peyote songs on his newest release, My Spirit Soars. On this disc you can hear Johnny's harmonized vocals over a rattle and a psychedelic water drum. The music possesses its own earthy beauty, although if you have only heard Native American flute and new age material up to this point, harmonized peyote songs do take a breaking in period.

I have read articles and liner notes of harmonized peyote song recordings where people, both musicians and attendees of Native American Church meetings experienced profound healing for illnesses and other problems. Those folks had actually participated at a meeting and would have benefited from group prayer and the peyote ritual too. I have not heard any reports of someone healing themself by listening to a harmonized peyote song recording. Still, these songs can relax the mind, body & spirit which in itself proves healing.

If you are interested in Native American cultures, enjoy exploring music off of the beaten path and are looking for something different for your meditation practice, you might give a listen to Johnny Mike's My Spirit Soars. It is a fabulous recording, with impassioned vocals and a steady beat. (Also read the peyote songs article on this site).

Healing Tones of Sacred Celtic Music

Celtic Twilight 7: Sacred Spirit
Hearts of Space Records
As we emerge from our cocoons and leave our winter reflections behind, we might find that our nerves are frazzled from the stress caused by the flu & cold season or unusual weather caused by global warming. Spring promises renewal as leaves sprout on the branches of trees and daffodils act as grails that capture drops of seasonal rain (depending on where you are upon the earth). At least it is late winter/early spring in this neck of the woods.

Many people use this time of year to cleanse their bodies, minds and spirits. They might seek new experiences, leave old careers behind, might relocate to another place on the planet or pursue a dormant dream with the attitude of better late than never. At least in the northern hemisphere, spring and its various spiritual and religious celebrations, promises resurrection, rebirth and a chance to begin again. And what better way to celebrate your rebirth than with sacred music.

Let's start with the Hearts of Space Records compilation, Celtic Twilight 7: Sacred Spirit which features ethereal and ceiling shattering vocals by Celtic artists: Anuna, Stella Mara, Aine Minogue and Cathie Ryan as well as, other talented performers. The soothing tones that soar from this recording have been a God-send in my life, especially during times of duress. I find the gorgeous recording to be the perfect cure for insomnia and I mean that as a compliment.

As mentioned in the title the sacred songs lend themselves well to yoga, meditation and pleasurable listening. Everything from virtuoso Appalachian fiddle, a perfectly-tuned English choir and a medieval/Eastern fusion appear on this compilation, just waiting to satisfy your heart.