Monday, November 11, 2013

In review--Songs from the Native American Church

World/Native American 
Cheevers Toppah
A Good Day, A Better Tomorrow 
Songs of the Native American Church
Canyon Records

Sacred music poses a challenge for review purposes because reviewing music requires the analytical brain and sacred music works the other side of the brain, leading to enhanced spiritual experiences.  Sacred music also requires undivided attention as well as, a focus on the heart and body to gage reactions.  Songs of the Native American Church have the ability to knock me right out of my mental space and land me in my heart center and I don’t want to be anywhere near my computer when this takes place.

Kiowa/Navajo Vocalist Cheevers Toppah honors his ancestors by carrying on the Native American Church song tradition, also known as “peyote songs” on his latest CD, A Good Day, A Better Tomorrow.  The songs appear in 8 sets (the structure of a Native American Church song) and Toppah closes the recording with a harmonized version of “Happy Birthday”, sung a cappella with harmonized vocals that could make listeners weak in the knees from the sheer beauty that appears here.  I felt moved by this song, especially after listening to 4 of the 8 sets, which in itself felt like a deep prayer session.  Where was Toppah when I experienced my last birthday?

Toppah is among a generation of Native American vocalists who possess vocal strength, power, and grace.  His choral training only enhances his vocals. Usually my nerves feel jumpy around Native American waterdrum and shakers, but when I listened to the songs on this recording, I felt deeply relaxed.  Normally, this genre of Native American music is performed as prayers song as part of a Native American Church ritual involving the ingestion of the peyote mushroom and performed in a sacred space.  I listened to the songs in my apartment, with a busy street behind me and not exactly a grounding place.  However, these songs visited and honored my spirit and for that I am truly thankful.  I recommend any recording by Cheevers Toppah--this is quality music with heart and soul.

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