Cherokee Flute, Cherokee Legend: A visit with Jay Red Eagle

Posted By PowWows.com June 22nd, 2014 Last Updated on: June 22nd, 2014

Jay Red Eagle, Cherokee Flute Player

Jay Red Eagle, Cherokee Flute Player

Jay Red Eagle is renowned as a performer and producer. His hip hop beats are a favorite with artists, as are his trance and house tracks. Yet, the heart of this Cherokee musical  legend remains firmly focused on his flute and he is best known as a Native American flute player.

by Dr. Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor

Q) You're a busy artist! You're making beats, recording music, participating in activism, but I know your first musical love is always the flute. How did you start to play?

A) A flute maker gave me a cedar Native American flute and I loved the sound of it. Nobody had to push me to practice. I played and played that thing until I figured out just about every sound you can make with a flute.

Q) Elders are such a valuable part of life in Native America. It's good to know that one gave you your flute and introduced you to playing in a good way. Do you see the flute as an important part of your Cherokee culture?

A)Culturally, the Native American flute is something I think we should preserve and pass down to the next generation, just like Native languages, dances, stories, and everything else, including all arts and crafts. Although it was traditionally an instrument used for courting, it still could be today.

Q) As proficient as you are on the flute, what's your next step in flute playing?

A) I am not a flute maker but I would love to learn the craft of making a flute myself. I am still a big fan of traditional flute music without another instrument behind it and if anyone has listened to my music they have probably noticed that.

Q) I have noticed that you allow the flute to speak for itself, or sing for itself might be a better way to describe it. Since you play other instruments, why do you think the flute became your signature method of making music?

A) The flute is my way of expressing my feelings, a form of worship, and a way of relaxing. At times I just pour out my spirit through the flute rather than with words or by talking about something. Other musicians write lyrics to go with music to express their feelings or mood, but I turn to the flute and I think it pretty
much reflects what I'm feeling at that moment.

Q) Speaking of feelings, I notice that you truly do play with deep passion and powerful delineation. What makes your music so evocative?

A) Personally, playing music is just something I love. I never considered it work, and probably never will. While editing music I may feel a little different about that at times, but that's usually very brief and when I just don't feel something is right about the mix or I am too tired to finish it at that moment. At times I have to force myself to stop and take a break or sleep, and come back to the project later.

Q) Your system seems to get results! Your songs contain elements of sensitivity and grace.

A) I think you can convey any feeling through music as long you don't hold back, and believe it or not, a lot of people tell me about the different emotions they feel when they hear my music at times. It's like speaking directly from your heart to another person's heart. They can identify with it in the same way they recognize words.

Q) I understand that you want the listener to feel your emotions, but how does it feel to you when you are making music?

A) I can tell you is that I let go of everything when I play, sometimes just closing my eyes and letting the music come forth of it's own accord. I never sit and think about what or how I'm going to play, except for maybe a slow or medium tempo song, and maybe with a piano or drum in the background. Other than that, it's 100% inspiration when it comes to composing and recording new songs.

Q) You are certainly prolific, producing lots of new songs often. How do you balance the blend between creativity and productivity? Are you on the way to being super famous?

A) Honestly, I don't hope to influence anyone but the Creator. I think that is really all that counts in the end. Like they say, “Life is a circle,” and what goes around comes around. I never sought fame, I still don't, and probably never will. If I was after fame I would certainly be in another musical genre. Native American flute music has come a long way, but it's still very far from mainstream music and still a niche market. However, I do want people who hear my music to enjoy it, and hopefully most of them do. It's an honor to hear from people all over the world who like my music, and I do try to reply to everyone of them.

Q) Well, there are probably aspiring artists who would love to learn from your success. And youth who are trying to learn their path. What advice do you offer all who want to learn and succeed?

A) I just want everyone to know that I believe in all of you! I believe you can do whatever you want to do, and all you have to do is make up your mind that you are going to start doing what you love right now. If you only do one or two things a day to move toward your dream, you are making progress. And you must refuse to listen to anyone who says you are only dreaming. Everything that surrounds us in our homes was once only a dream. It took a dreamer to turn it into reality. And you can also be a dreamer who does the same thing with your dream.

Q) That sounds very sound. Any other helpful insights?

A) Read biographies of very successful people. Learn from what they say,and listen to how they did it. Get a reading device on your computer or phone and start downloading books on business, branding,music, and marketing. There are a lot of free digital books out there,so you don't need a lot of money to start building our library. I read every day and I love to save e-books because I can carry my library in the palm of my hand or my shirt pocket.

Q) During my radio show, I always have a “Get off the Couch Moment”, which is an action step. Motivate us before you go?

A) My motivational word is “Do what you love.” If you follow that counsel, you'll never have to work for someone else if you put your whole heart into it what you really enjoy doing. I know this for sure!

FMI: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jay-red-eagle/id125722182

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Nora Jean Flowers

Relocated from the northwest. Would cherish insight of the heartland, and our native peoples. Thank you.

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