Heartbeat, Warble and the Electric Powwow: New Book Examines American Indian Music

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown May 16th, 2016 Last Updated on: May 16th, 2016

Percussionist, educator and author Craig Harris has recently tackled a subject we all hold dear to our hearts for his latest book. He doesn't just talk traditional or pow wow music, but gets into the modern and contemporary styles in Heartbeat, Warble and the Electric Powwow: American Indian Music.


From the OU Press synopsis of the book:

Despite centuries of suppression and oppression, American Indian music survives today as a profound cultural force. Heartbeat, Warble, and the Electric Powwow celebrates, in depth, the vibrant soundscape of Native North America, from the “heartbeat” of intertribal drums and “warble” of Native flutes to contemporary rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with musicians, producers, ethnographers, and record-label owners, author and musician Craig Harris conjures an aural tapestry in which powwow drums and end-blown woodwinds resound alongside operatic and symphonic strains, jazz and reggae, country music, and blues.

Harris begins with an exploration of the powwow, from sacred ceremonies to intertribal gatherings. He examines the traditions of the Native American flute and its revival with artists such as two-time Grammy winners R. Carlos Nakai and Mary Youngblood. Singers and songwriters, including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Keith Secola, and Joanne Shenandoah, provide insights into their music and their lives as American Indians. Harris also traces American Indian rock, reggae, punk, and pop over four decades, punctuating his survey with commentary from such artists as Tom Bee, founder of Native America’s first rock band, XIT. Grammy-winner Taj Mahal recalls influential guitarist Jesse Ed Davis; ex-bandmates reflect on Rock Hall of Fame inductee Redbone; Robbie Robertson, Pura Fe, and Rita Coolidge describe how their groundbreaking 1993 album, Music for the Native Americans, evolved; and DJs A Tribe Called Red discuss their melding of archival powwow recordings into fiery dance music.

The many voices and sounds that weave throughout Harris’s engaging, accessible account portray a sonic landscape that defies stereotyping and continues to expand. Heartbeat, Warble, and the Electric Powwow is the story—told by those who live it—of resisting a half-millennium of cultural suppression to create new sounds while preserving old roots.

The author recently uploaded a YouTube video highlighting some of the artists he examines in the book.

This looks promising and he already has some reviews in from critics.

“An evocative snapshot of the musical landscape of Native North America.”—Philip J. Deloria, author of Playing Indian

“This book doesn’t miss a beat. It’s the most authentic study of the ongoing Spirit of our music in recent memory.”—Rev. Goat Carson, American Indian elder and Grammy Award winner

The book is available via OU Press, but you can also find it on Amazon.com.

For more information please visit OUPress.com.

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Music » Heartbeat, Warble and the Electric Powwow: New Book Examines American Indian Music

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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