September 29th, 2015 Last Updated on: January 20th, 2016
Foster Kalama (Wasco/Nisqually/Pitt River/ Klickitat/Nez Perce/Hawaiian) is a traditional singer, flute player, and hand drummer as well as an artist, whose work includes pen and ink drawings; wood, elk and deer antler carvings; the making and illustrating of traditional hand drums; and the creation of Native American regalia.
DK: Your music provides such peace! What do you think makes your music so powerful?
FK: I have been taught by an Elder that I have to play from my Heart. He told me that our instruments are spiritual instruments, and that our songs are borrowed from the Heavens.
DK: Such a lovely lifestyle!
FK: The songs are meant for a healing within. The music and sound is to uplift ones spirit and to let one overcome whatever is deep within.
DK: Your outlook on music is so uplifting! How did you start to perform?
FK: My first performance was in 1994 at the Kah-Ne-Tah Lodge for a Conference, and I was hired to play many times after that. To name a few, I have played for Cancer Benefit Society at Madras OR., Gathering of Flutes for Cancer, Gresham OR., COCC Bend OR., Winnebago, NB four times. As a Director for the Jefferson County Middle School and Madras High School, we traveled and performed for many school, clubs, churches and benefit societies.
DK: Since you have enjoyed such a fantastic career, what are some of the highlights?
FK: I had taught flute playing to several youth and adults in the past twenty five years close to a thousand maybe more. My highlight of all was gone to Germany with my sons Titus Kalama, and Simeon Kalama. There, we performed seven times and I gave three lectures.
DK: Sounds like a great adventure!
FK: Yes! We were chosen in the Top Ten that year. I had been all over the Northwest and other states playing and giving speeches.
DK: What are some of the lessons that you learned about performing?
FK: After the first few performances, I learned how to use the Mic with the different pitches how close and how far away you stand. I have told stories in between my songs and learned real quick that you have to remember to fit the story with the age groups from children to adults. The topics are very important. Playing flutes and other instruments like our Native Drums and Rattles you have to have the timing down making sure the group is all on the same page.
DK: Important insights! Anything you are glad you didn't know when you began to play?
FK: The things that I am grateful not known at the time is several flutes I gifted were stolen or broken. And that other performers were very jealous and talked behind our backs.
DK: Yet, you pressed on and have made a delightful career! What pleases you about your career now?
FK:On my new CD – KO-NA Songs of the Sacred Spirit I am very pleased with all the songs played. It is the Quality of the songs that Mr. Jeremy Baer who Mastered the Mixing and Recording with Chenoah Lee-Baer the Voice of my writing on “Way of Life”. I am grateful and very happy for the background of the Water, Wind, birds and Animals. I decided to close out on my past CDs they were not up to my expectations. You could get my CD by Face Booking or Messaging Me for my Address the CD is $15 with Shipping And Handling.
DK: Tell us more about the origin of your passion for music?
FK: My Passion for Music is that I enjoy practically all music. As a child I grew up around music. I was raised for the first seven years of my life with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and the huge majority of those seven years was with my grandparents. My grandfather was in the Military. During World War I, World War II, and the Korea Conflict, he was in the Army Band and played every instrument and most of all the Piano. People from all over the world came to see and listen to him play his piano at our home. My dad Roland Kalama Sr., and his eight siblings all played different instruments and sang. The community of Warm Springs would come to listen or join in. I miss those days since no one does it anymore.
DK: Well, you certainly have carried on your family gift of music! How did you come to play the flute?
FK: I learned how to play the Native American Flute on my own. I started back in 1973 at Chamewa Indian Boarding School. I was in the Native American Indian Club and we traveled to sing, drum, and dance performing at collages, conferences, and powwows. The Identity of our Indian Club was well recognized by many. I still today dress for the occasion when I perform I open with a drum and song, play my flute and tell two or three stories and play more flute.
DK: How does your tribal identity influence your playing?
FK: Growing up Native with my Culture and Heritage all my life makes it easy to fit flute songs new and old to the drums and rattles, and ceremonies. Our Native American Flutes go back for centuries. I once got to hold and play a flute that dated back from the mid 1800s. I was very surprised that the flute still played very well like it was just made. I am certain it was made from pine.
DK: An enduring legacy!
FK: Yes. I was told a story from an older flute player about back in the early 1800s when the Indian kids were stripped from their parents. That a young boy about nine or ten was adopted he was taken far far away from his parents in a very strange place he never knew existed. The boy, who was already taught several different things about life came from a very musically inclined family. He already was taught how to make flutes. His grandfather, father, older sibling brothers, uncles and cousins all knew how to play and entertain the people. As he got older, he started missing the days he played and entertained.
One day, his new parents were throwing away a brass bed. He noticed it was hollowed out. He asked his new parents if he could have the bed. They agreed so cut it and made himself a brass flute with a very beautiful deep sound. He then won the respect of the community by his entertaining. One day as he got old enough, he was given permission to go to his original home and with him took his flute.
DK: Certainly illustrates the impact of the flute in his life! What other blessings has your flute brought to your life?
FK: Because of my way of life, I have received Awards that pertain to my music. The Flutes had changed the atmosphere in the schools. My Culture Enrichment Club had helped unite the youth from being segregated. I have earned five awards working with the Schools two from the OIEA Oregon Indian Education Association for Outstanding Counselor in 1996-1997, and 2005-2006. I had been presented by the Oregon State Attorney the Jan Hindman Memorial CHANGE AWARD Creating Healthy Alternatives to promote Non-violence and Gender Equity in 2007.
DK: Congratulations! What else are you happy to share?
FK:I enjoyed 18 years of Dedicated Services to our Schools, Students, and Staff for working at the 509J School District.
DK: Thank you so much for sharing with us and with our youth that way!
FK: Many thanks!
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