One of the most important things in the life of a Native American is the Drum. Our whole culture centers around the Drum. Without the Drum and the singers around it, the Native Americans could not have pow wows. The Drum brings the heart beat of our Earth Mother to the pow wow for all to feel and hear. Drumming brings everyone back into balance. Whether dancing , singing, or just listening, people around the Drum can connect with spirit. It is no wonder the Drum should be treated with great respect.
Being head singer is a great honor. The man who receives this honor is chosen for his experience. He has the right to lead all songs unless he chooses other men to lead and help carry the load. The head singer may open the Drum at his discretion. This means anyone may lead songs at any time. Once a singer takes his place at the Drum, he should stay until there is a break. If he has to leave, he should inform the head singer. While at the Drum, the singers should keep their thoughts on the songs and should keep the beat of the Drum. Generally singers should not leave the Drum to dance. However at many contest pow wows, many singers are beginning to compete. When a head singer is chosen to sing for a dance, he will naturally do his best. Therefore the singers he has chosen should do their best for the head singer.
Songs are started with a lead line sung by the head singer. This lets the Drum and the dancers know what song is coming. After the lead line, the second (another person at the Drum) will take up the lead line, and everyone will join in with him. At this point the dancers begin to dance. The loud beats during the songs sometimes called “honor beats” are a time for dancers to honor the Drum. In Northern Singing, these beats are generally during the verses. For Southern Singing, the honor beats are generally between verses.
The head singer has the first and last word and has complete control of what goes on at the Drum. He must know many songs.
A closed Drum means the head singer has chosen the singers he wants to sing with him. The dance arena could be filled with good singers but they should not sit at the drum unless they are asked by the head singer.
Some additional things to remember:
Liquor is never permitted at the Drum.
Women, usually do not sit at the Drum and beat the Drum, if women sing, they may sit in the second row behind the men singers–there are some Women Drums emerging now.
If a special song is called, those asking for the song should donate to the Drum.
If money is given to the Drum for a special song, the head singer may divide the money with the singers immediately or wait until after the dance, he divides the money among the singers according to their ability, he knows who carried the load and made his job easier.
Find out more in the singing forum.