March 29th, 2015 Last Updated on: March 29th, 2015
—Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor
In recent news that will delight Native flute fans everywhere, The Native American Music Association (NAMA) has announced that multi-award winner and Lifetime Achievement recipient, R. Carlos Nakai has achieved 1,000,000 units in sales of his 1989 Canyon Records release entitled, Canyon Trilogy, and has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
R. Carlos Nakai has received numerous nominations and awards from the Native American Music Awards including; Best Flutist in 1998, Best Male Artist in 1998, Best Instrumental Recording in 2000, Best Flutist in 2001, Best New Age Recording in 2003, and Best World Music Recording in 2006 with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet. In 2001, the Native American Music Association presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1983, Nakai signed with the Arizona-based independent label, Canyon Records and released his debut recording, Changes. To date, Nakai has released a total of more than 50 albums in his career, 40 of them with Canyon, and sold more than 4.3 million albums. His Earth Spirit recording, released in 1987, was certified Gold in 2001 and the Canyon Trilogy recording, released in 1989, was certified Gold in 1998 by the RIAA. Produced by Robert Doyle, president of Canyon Records, Canyon Trilogy features 17 music tracks of the cedar flute with three tracks of an overdubbed second flute. By using the Roland SDE 3000 Digital Delay system, Nakai was able to play duets with his own echo.
Nakai has stated that most of his inspiratiofejbn comes from the expressions of Native communities and his desire to preserve his own Native American heritage. He has explored many genres with the traditional Native American flute including world, classical, jazz and new age music. He has also collaborated with a Japanese folk ensemble and the Philadelphia Orchestra's Israeli cellist Udi Bar-David. He has worked with American composer Philip Glass, Tibetan flutist Nawang Khechog, flutist Paul Horn, and Hawaiian slack key guitar master Keola Beamer.
The RIAA is the country’s music trade association whose member companies are responsible for creating, manufacturing, or distributing approximately 85 percent of all music sold in the United States. The RIAA® Gold® and Platinum® Awards program was launched in 1958 to honor artists and create a standard by which to measure national sales of a sound recording. The Gold album award is for the sale of 500,000 copies. The Platinum award, which was created in 1976 with the advent of the compact disc is for 1,000,000 in sales. Certifications are undertaken when the label or artist has requested certification after certain sales thresholds have been met nationally. The RIAA award programs are the longest-running objective measure of achievement for sound recordings in the United States, and provide an unmatched historical perspective on the success of countless recording artists.
Although the RIAA does not track recordings by genre or ethnicity, NAMA believes that it currently appears that no other Native American recording artist has yet achieved 1,000,000 in sales with RIAA certification for a traditional-based Native American music recording. According to NAMA, other commercial recordings, whether Native American inspired, or by contemporary artists of Native American heritage, have been certified for Gold and Platinum, but none for sales of a traditional work.
Originally released in 1971, the all American rock group, Paul Revere & The Raiders were certified Platinum by the RIAA for their classic #1 single, Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian) in 1996. But no one in the group was Native American and the single contained no traditional instrumentation.
The Native American Pop group, Redbone, and NAMA Hall of Fame Inductees, which featured brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas (Yaqui and Shoshone) and Tony Bellamy (Yaqui) were certified Gold in 1974 for their hit single, Come And Get Your Love. The song was also featured on the Guardians of the Galaxy 70’s inspired soundtrack which was just certified Platinum on January 7, 2015.
NAMA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Rita Coolidge (Cherokee), received several Gold and Platinum awards. Her singles, Higher and Higher, Were All Alone, and Anytime, Anywhere and her album Love Me Again all went Gold in 1977 and 1978. The album Anytime, Anywhere was also certified Platinum in 1977. In more recent years, Rita has recorded traditionally-based Native American music with her late sister and niece as Walela, who have received multiple Native American Music Awards and are in the top 10 of the highest selling Native American albums in Nielsen Music’s sales data.
NAMA Hall of Famer, Janice Marie Johnson (Stockbridge-Munsee-Mohican) was certified Gold for her penned singles with her group, A Taste of Honey, for Boogie Oogie Oogie and Sukiyaki in 1978 and 1981. The international Pop hit, Boogie Oogie Oogie was also certified Platinum in 1978.
Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), and NAMA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, was certified Gold for his self-titled recording, Robbie Robertson in 1988. He has also released two Native American recordings featuring himself and various other traditional Native American artists entitled, Music For The Native Americans in 1994, and Contact From the Underworld of Red Boy in 1998. Music For the Native Americans is the #1 best-selling Native American album reported by Nielsen Music with over 233,000 albums.
The 1994 international release of Sacred Spirit: Chants and Dances of Native America featuring an ambient, electronic, new age compilation of sampled Native American chants is reported to have sold over seven million copies worldwide, but has never been Gold or Platinum in the United States. The first single by Navajo elder, Kee Chee Jake from Chinle, Arizona, entitled, Yeha-Noha (Wishes of Happiness and Prosperity) is said to have catapulted the recording into Billboard’s Hot 100 and leveraged its international appeal in such countries as France, Italy and the UK.
Other soundtracks from the motion picture films; Dances With Wolves and Last of the Mohicans which took on the perspective of Native Americans, have both been certified Gold and Platinum by 1993 and 1995, but are void of any traditional or contemporary Native American music.
Nielsen Music is another music industry measuring standard using SoundScan, a sales tracking system. For more than two decades, Nielsen Music has been a trusted and vital resource for companies that want a full picture of music sales, overall market performance and artist activity. Nielsen’s SoundScan has been a source for the Billboard music charts and radio play. Their data is collected from 14,000 retail, mass merchant, and non-traditional outlets (on-line stores, venues, digital music services, etc.) not only in the United States, but also in Canada, UK and Japan. According to Nielsen Music, the top three largest selling Native American recordings are; Music For the Native Americans by Robbie Robertson, Things We Do by Indigenous and R. Carlos Nakai’s Canyon Trilogy. Nakai’s Emergence and Earth Spirit recordings follow suit along with Walela’s debut recording, Walela and Music From A Painted Cave by Robert Mirabal. Collectively, Sacred Spirit’s three releases in 1995, 2007, and 2011 total 219,000, Buffy Sainte-Marie has sold a total of 104,000 and Joanne Shenandoah has sold 89,000 albums exclusively at SoundScan retail outlets.
RIAA numbers may effectively represent sales at a wholesale level and Neilsen Music’s Soundscan represents the retail level. An album may easily be certified Gold or Platinum before it’s retail sales numbers actually reflect it on Soundscan. RIAA also treats physical and digital sales separately, while Soundscan counts only by UPC code. Additionally, many Native American music recordings are released through small and independent labels using various distributors and may escape conventional retail outlets. However, Native American music recordings remain strong among both measuring systems.
Dynamic performer of the Native American flute, Nakai, celebrated his first Platinum Record with a commemorative concert at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) Theater in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, January 23, 2015. He presented his Platinum Record to the Museum for inclusion in his exhibit in their Artist Gallery. Joining Nakai at the MIM were his long time collaborators, William Eaton (harp guitar) and Will Clipman (world ethnic percussion/drums). Both Eaton and Clipman have performed and recorded with Nakai for more than 25 years. Nakai also invited Tony Duncan, labelmate and a leading Native American flute player and world championship hoop dancer to share the stage. Classical composer/pianist James DeMars was also invited to perform, “Lake That Speaks,” the second movement on the Two World Concerto recordin along with collaborator, composer and pianist Peter Kater whose latest joint release, Ritual (Mysterium Records), has been nominated for Best New Age Album in this year’s Grammys.
Founded and incorporated in 1998, The Native American Music Association and annual Awards program, the Native American Music Awards (NAMA), are the world’s first and only professional membership-based organization dedicated to American Indigenous music initiatives by Native North Americans. NAMA members are responsible for creating, producing, manufacturing and distributing traditional and contemporary Native American music. Powwows.com and NAMA both congratulate Nakai on his fantastic achievement!
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