January 30th, 2014 Last Updated on: January 30th, 2014
Beautiful Beyond stands out in dazzling array of Native Music, due to a perspective on Native life that is rarely displayed. This CD celebrates the spiritual insights of a distinctive faction of Native America. Blending Indigenous Language with Inspirational viewpoints results in a musical journey that is uplifting and peaceful.
While many equate Native American spirituality with the traditions of tribes and powwows, this recording proffers a different point of view. Recorded in communities and churches throughout Native America, Beautiful Beyond demonstrates the remarkable ability of Indigenous people to incorporate new ideas, integrate traditional language and intertwine cultures into ways of praise. Joy, comfort and cultural preservation fill the songs on this CD.
Diverse in its inclusion of tribes, nations and regions, Beautiful Beyond showcases a stirring spiritual tone that rests in the words of each tribal tongue. Standouts from the Southeast Tribes include Walker Calhoun's “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” sung in Eastern Band Cherokee Dialect. When the Long Family, long time members of my church, sing “Heavenly Home” wistful hope meets language preservation. “Jesus Made the Road” features the dynamic Seminole elder Betty Mae Jumper in a soul stirring rendition.
The Southwest yield some potent hymns as well. Sung in Hopi, “Silent Night” turns a Christmas classic into a refreshing cultural exploration. “Lord, Have Mercy” is a powerful rendition by the Tewa Women's Choir that demonstrates how the people of the San Juan Pueblo have taken the music of the missionaries and customized it into their own. Navajo language revitalizes the familiar hymns, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and “Amazing Grace.”
Music from the Plains also stands out. “Kiowa Prayer Song ” and “Kiowa Hymn” are stunning examples of the force of language as it is used for prayerful purposes. When the Cheyenne River Lakota sing “Jesus Loves Even Me” and “Communion of the Saints”, the voices meld in a gleeful victory song. Similarly, the Ojibwe hymn singers provide Midwest tribal representation during “In the Sweet By and By.”
As representatives of the Northeast Tribes, Mohawk singers contribute several songs. Kathleen Thompson's “Wedding Prayer Hymn” provides a gorgeous testimony to lasting love and fidelity. Joanne Shenandoah leads a trio of Mohawk singers, who rouse listeners with an old standby, “Rock of Ages.” This CD is filled with a grand blend of old hymns and traditional expressions of faith.
Moving West, the CD features Alaskan singers. Yup'ik singers from St. Herman's Seminary present consistent excellence on several tracks. Native Hawaiian voices create the melancholy lament of ” Ke Aloha O Ka Haku: Lili'uokalani's Prayer”. This well-known anthem records the loss of Native sovereignty due to colonization. Many of the tunes on this CD may prove to be recognizable to numerous listeners. Hearing them outside of their intended context infuses these hymns with energy that brings encouragement and enlightenment, regardless of the hearers' worldviews, religions or ethnic backgrounds.
Beautiful Beyond (CD). Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (# 093074048023), 2004.
Dr. Dawn Karima is the winner of a NAMMY for Best Gospel, whose home is in Cherokee, NC.