Monday, May 28, 2012

In review--Love for all relations

Cheevers Toppah
True Melodies
Harmonized Songs from the Heart of Native America
Canyon Records

Native American traditional singer Cheevers Toppah (Kiowa/Navajo), captured my attention several years ago with his solo and collaborative efforts with Alex E. White and Nitanis Landry (Harmony Nights, Canyon Records).  Similar to other Native American men vocalists, Toppah’s voice glides effortlessly between bass and baritone, while bringing soothing timbre to his harmonized songs.  As any singer will tell you singing a cappella and harmonizing with their self provides challenges, especially in the area of intonation.  Toppah’s training as a choral singer along with his years of honing Native American vocal traditions brings us a confident singer with a powerfully healing voice.  There are no shortages of healing voices on Canyon Records or among Native American musicians in general, Toppah joins the cream of the crop while also bringing his integrity, connections to the earth, and family along with him.

The soothing songs on True Melodies, mostly sung in a Native American dialect (does not specify in the CD liner notes), provide a backdrop for meditation or contemplative journaling.  You could even listen to the harmonized songs outdoors and the natural world would enjoy the vibrations too.  The singer composed the songs for his relations including the hearty Diamond Gal which I’m guessing Toppah composed for his wife.  Toppah also includes two Native American Church (peyote) songs for those of you readers following my Native American Church article on this blog.

When I review CDs, the first listen is through headphones and the second listen includes the ambience of the room and outdoors.  Right now, a songbird sings loudly outside my window, almost drowning out Toppah’s voice. Perhaps this comes as a compliment from the birds. While scientists might not agree with me, I believe that birds and animals enjoy the music of indigenous people, especially traditional vocal music.  In that case, those resident songbirds give Toppah five stars.

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