Saturday, March 6, 2010

In review--More Peyote and Harmonized Songs

Chillon Paddock
(Peyote Songs of the Native American Church)
Canyon Records

Kevin Yazzie
Harmonized Peyote Songs of the Native American Church
Canyon Records

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed Native American recordings for WME. The 2 most popular types of music read on this blog are traditional Native American and Brazilian, thus far. And as far as the indigenous recordings go, peyote and pow-wow songs attract much attention.

I just received 3 new recordings from Canyon Records, but for review purposes and the sake of time, I will focus on the peyote song recordings. First, Chillon Paddock, a Dinè woman peyote song practitioner debuts on the label. She also painted the beautiful artwork that appears on the cover of Zephyr (Peyote Songs of the Native American Church), and she practices massage therapy. So you guessed it, her sets of peyote songs (each set contains 4 songs), provide deep healing potential.

Her uncle Louie Gonnie Jr. (who I have reviewed on this blog several times), came on as a co-composer and contributes his vocals on a few tracks. Gonnie’s vocals alone possess a healing timbre and when in harmony with his niece Chillon, the healing effect multiplies. While peyote songs in general can be jarring at times with the strange pitch of the water drum and buzz of the rattles, I found the songs on this recording relaxing. And they induced much needed sleep.

Not only did I find the recording relaxing, but I felt pleased to hear a woman singing peyote songs. I’m unaware of the number of Indian women following this tradition, perhaps it’s many, but this is the first time I have received a peyote song recording composed and performed by a woman. The feminine energy, as you might imagine, and this is not cliché or stereotype, feels nourishing and nurturing. I hope to hear more from Ms Paddock in years to come. In the meantime, I allow her songs to massage my aching muscles.

Also hailing from Arizona, Kevin Yazzie is no stranger to my ears. The latest recording by the Grammy nominee, Hope, provides Yazzie’s signature harmonized songs with the singer providing all the harmonies. His smooth vocals which easily glide from baritone to tenor and the range of tempos in which the sets of songs were performed, provide a profound healing experience. Though I wouldn’t describe these harmonized songs as relaxing, nor are they jarring or psychedelic. Yet, an immense spirituality comes through along with the singer’s compassion and soulfulness.   For anyone wishing to get acquainted with harmonized songs, this album would be a good place to start.

Similar to Gonnie, Yazzie composes and performs accessible harmonized songs along with stories. He dedicates songs to his third child and ends with a prayer song, the titular track of the album. For the more adventurous listener, try a double bill of Chillon Paddock and Kevin Yazzie, which provides approximately 2 hours of harmonized songs. Perfect for an energy healing practice, though check in with your patients’ comfort level. And by the way, Yazzie painted the beautiful cover art.

For those of you who prefer rousing pow-wow songs with mighty drumming and soaring mixed vocals (men and women singers), check out another new recording, Relentless by Oklahoma's Thunder Hill. Recorded live in Oklahoma, this championship group shows what they’re made of and the recording contains over 60 minutes of pow-wow drumming and singing.

Canyon Records

Friday, March 5, 2010

News--The Center for Music Therapy

The Music Therapy Center website was brought to my attention recently.  Here is the link

The center is located in Austin, Texas.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In review--Vistas from the Silk Road

Tomoko Sugawara
Along the Silk Road
Ancient and Modern Music for the Kugo

I normally wouldn’t expect a delicate Silk Road recording to be released on a jazz label. However, Japanese harpist Tomoko Sugawara debuts on Motema’s New World series with her exquisite recording, Along the Silk Road. Although this album marks her third recording, I believe it’s her first recording featuring the kugo, a harp that finds its roots in ancient Mesopotamia. Also known as an angular harp, “chang” (Iran) and “kunghou,” the instrument traveled on the Silk Road from the Middle East and Spain to China and Japan.  Then it mysteriously disappeared during the 17th century.

On Along the Silk Road, Sugawara performs solo pieces in which the harp resembles a Japanese zither (koto) as she plucks the tight strings with an occasional strum for emphasis. She also performs collaborative pieces, such as Qawl (ancient Iran), which features a duet of kugo and the Middle Eastern hand drum darabuka, Shakugo I with alto flute and the cantigas for Saint Mary from medieval Spain, in which the harp joins a darabuka and a bendir (frame drum).

I’m amazed at the depth of emotions Sugawara draws from her harp, as well as, the many styles she performs here from Japanese, ancient Chinese, Iranian (both contemporary and ancient) and medieval Spain. She performs commissioned work by Kikuko Masumoto, Stephen Dydo’s adaptations of ancient Tang Dynasty manuscripts, Robert Lombardo and Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour. And she’s joined by Robert Dicks (alto flute) and Ozan Aksoy (bendir and darabuka).

The recording goes beyond providing gentle and meditative music. I’m listening to the disk the third time while I write this review and the music helps me to stay focused. I listened to the disk before going to bed last night and I found the music helped me fall into a deep sleep. While Sugawara performs music worth careful listens, it would also bode well with energy and massage work. Even with the percussion that appears on 3 of the 13 tracks, the overall feeling could be compared to sinking into a hot tub of water and relaxing fragrances.

And who doesn’t enjoy traveling down the Silk Road musically speaking? Along the Silk Road provides beautiful music and a musical history lesson that spans from ancient times to the 17th century and then celebrates a resurgence of the angular harp.