Past, Present, Future: A review of ELDERS’ VISION

By Dawn Karima on August 19, 2013
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Elders’ Vision by Blackfoot Confederacy.  Canyon Records:21 songs, 2012.

Elders’ Vision  represents Blackfoot Confederacy’s tribute to the powwow song stylings of the mid-20th century.  For those elders who experienced the power of powwow singing amidst the turbulent political and social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, this CD provides a refreshing return to an era of preserving Native Pride through powwows.   For younger listeners, Elders’ Vision offers an opportunity to revisit a significant time period in powwow music, while moving songs from the past into the realm of the present.

Stirring and evocative, the  introduction to the CD features a Blackfoot Language speech by Chief Earl Old Person.  This respected elder establishes a tone of stately gravitas, which focuses the audience’s  attention on the importance of connecting Native lifeways of the past to the listening experience of the present.  In addition, Chief Earl Old Person closes the CD with potent Blackfoot words, which unifies the entire CD by placing a respected Elder’s voice at the start and the finish of the CD and creates a climate of honor and dignity.

Blackfoot Confederacy’s lively tone and brilliant energy infuses “Victory Song” with an invincible spirit that is especially stirring when one considers the racial turmoil endured by Natives during the 1970s, when this song originated.  An uplifting celebration of Native victory, this track features strong leads and is enhanced by the beautifully blended voices of ladies singing with the drum.  Women are in the spotlight during “Women’s Traditional Contest Song”, which proves to be one of my favorite songs on the CD.  Blackfoot Confederacy sings with such zeal that makes it evident that they appreciate and honor the Mothers, Wives, Sisters, Grandmothers, Aunts and Daughters that give life throughout Indian Country.   Leads, seconds and ladies sing with all their might and maintain their zest throughout the entire track. I can only imagine how tremendous this dance of elegant traditional women would have been in real time.

Warriors merit special honor and significance throughout Native America. Honored at every powwow, Veterans have earned an immutable place of respect and play an invaluable role in each powwow as guardians of the flags, eagle staff, colors and the peace and safety of the people.  When “Veterans’  Song” plays,  images of noble military bravery and dedication to land and country accompany its steady drumbeats.  Each voice sings every vocable with passion and pride that causes listeners to pause and reflect on the sacrifice made by all Warriors…past, present and future.

As a Jingle Dress Dancer, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to Side Step at a every powwow and looked forward to the drum groups’ choice of song.  As a result,  “Jingle Dress Contest Song (Side Step) ”  caught my interest.  Blackfoot Confederacy’s version does not disappoint.  This track encompasses the speed of a Side Step with sturdy singing that showcases the skills of the graceful Jingle Dress Dancers.  “Grass Dance Song” also centers on a particular dance category and offers grass dancers center stage.  A remarkably inspiring lead presses grass dancers to demonstrate their very best skills and talents. Further, this song reveals an intensity in the singers that displays their sense of unity and order.

Elders’ Vision features 21 songs that were recorded live at Kyi-yo Powwow.  From Intertribal tunes to contest songs, Blackfoot Confederacy sings with a sense of Indigenous identity reminiscent of the Native Pride and Red Power movements that defined the 1950s to 1970s years when these songs were originally sung.  A living history lesson, these tracks recount times when Native Americans were attempting to define what it meant to be traditional while existing in modernity.   In addition, the strong leads, lovely ladies’ voices and mighty seconds merge with the heartbeat of the Northern drum to make Elders’ Vision excellent music for dancing!

 


TOPICS: Blog, Featured, Native American Music, Pow Wow

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