June 24th, 2013 Last Updated on: June 24th, 2013
|Kelly Montijo Fink “White Sparrow” (Mexican, Apache, and Spanish) is a wife, mother, adjunct Spanish professor, singer-songwriter, & creative artist. She is a seeker of wisdom & a practitioner of joy and her heart is to see people walk in freedom in every aspect of their lives.She has multiple Native American Music Award nominations and won a NAMMY for an album that she co-produced as “Best Compilation CD” in 2011, with her song “More” as the featured track.Discography: Heartbeat of the Creator (2008), Songs of War & Victory (2010), The Color of Hope (collaborative work 2011), Don’t Let Me Forget (due out July 2013)|
|Q: In three words, how would you describe your music?
A: Heartfelt, strong, & truthful.Q: With an awesome name like yours, there should be a good story behind it. Can we hear it?
A: The name “White Sparrow” was given to me by a Kalapuya brother in a naming ceremony. The “white” is for purity of heart & the “sparrow” is a song bird.
Q:So, how did you start making music? Did you have a musical inspiration early on ? Who influences you musically these days?
A: I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I’ve just always loved music! In school I was in choir groups and musical theater. I’ve sung everything from Italian opera, to Madrigal music, rock / pop, folk, Mexican mariachi, Native drum songs, and now (curiously) rap & hip-hop. In our household growing up I heard everything from Elvis to disco, Freddy Fender to traditional Mariachi music. In my younger years I would say that I was particularly drawn to the voices of Linda Ronstadt & Pat Benatar – women with powerhouse voices! I have so many influences today that it’s hard to just pick one. I love Latin music and would love to do an album all in Spanish someday.
Q:Do you think of your music as a new form of Native traditional music? Do you classify your music in a particular genre?
A: My first album, “Heartbeat of the Creator”, is more of a traditional sound. It was birthed out of my spending hours every week for the better part of three years praying for our Native peoples. Really, it’s a collection of prayer songs with the voice and drum. My second album “Songs of War & Victory” is about identity & has a lot more instrumentation and covers everything from pop & blues to contemporary folk & Native drum songs. I can’t stay put in one genre. To me, every song has a personality that is expressed through a particular genre. So I write music across genres.
Q: When you dream about the next phase of your musical career, what do you see?
Q:Your music is poignant and evocative. Why do you think it resonates so deeply with your listeners? What kind of folks were you most surprised to find are your fans?
A: I believe that my music connects with people’s spirits, no matter where they are or what language they speak. Our spirits are always crying out for hope and truth. If a song can release that in someone’s life, then that is healing. I guess I’m most surprised to learn that my music has traveled overseas to places like France, Austria, Russia, Israel, Peru, Colombia. I love hearing the stories of the people that hear my music, for example, that some kids adopted from Africa listen to my drum CD every night before bed, that a young Cherokee woman incarcerated in Texas was changed by it, or that a young woman who was sexually assaulted was brought peace by it. A teacher that bought my music indicated that she would use it in her classroom & a doula wanted to play it while her moms (patients) were birthing children. How cool is that? I’m thrilled that music is so accessible to everyone.
A: I do, but I’ll just pick a few. “Song of Freedom” was birthed in that season of intense prayer. I was going to a gathering where I had been asked to bring “healing with sound”. In one of those particular times of prayer I started playing my drum and this melody just came out. Then I heard the words and began to sing them over and over so that I would remember them. I knew that Creator God was giving me a song to sing over someone at that gathering. Sure enough, I met “Beth” there and that was her song. She wept as I sang it to her & told her the story of the song. “Supposed To” became kind of a “chick anthem” & the idea came when I was reading the Penny Saver (local paper with events & ads) in my kitchen & I was thinking, “everyone wants to make their mark…..so what kind of impact do I want to have and what do I want to impart as a woman to my own daughter?” “The Awakening” was written in a time when Creator God was speaking to me in dreams and revelations about my Native heritage (I am Apache, Mexican, & Spanish). In one particular dream, I saw the face of a Native man and immediately knew that he was one of my ancestors. I knew that I was being “called out” to walk in greater understanding of who I was created to be in the fullness of ALL that I am. Interestingly enough, sometime later a total stranger sat down with me (non-Native) and told me that he had this vision of me and began to describe that same man that I saw in my dream. Before I met my husband, he had also had a dream about a woman with dark hair wrapped in a Native blanket.
Q:Do you receive your songs fully formed? Or do you labor over each line?
A: I don’t really try to “force” a song. Some songs come quicker than others. They may come in bits in pieces, but eventually become fully formed. I keep both scraps of paper & word documents with songs waiting to happen or songs in progress. Sometimes it’s just a line or two of lyric, other times it’s just verses or choruses around a particular theme. I use my phone to record melodies that pop into my head at any time. I feel responsible to take note of what I’ve been given.
Q: What's the greatest moment you ever enjoyed while performing? The most cringe-worthy?
A: The greatest moments are when people feel the impact of a song & it resonates with them – when a song or songs give them courage, determination, freedom, healing, hope. Those are the moments I treasure the most because I believe it to be a reciprocal experience. I pour out what I have they receive something from it and I in return am encouraged by their response. My most cringe-worthy experience was when I was in college and had been asked to sing with a Mariachi band in a regional festival. I was pretty naïve about just jumping in with the band to sing. I just met them that day & we had about fifteen minutes of practice before the half hour performance. It was a disaster. The ironic thing about that was the very next day I went to a quinceañera (15th birthday party for a girl) and the same Mariachi band had been hired to play. They called me up to sing a song with them and it went MUCH better that time.
Q:Who are you away from the studio? What fills your time, your dreams, your days besides music?
Q:What do you think people see when they first see you? What will they miss if they just go by first impressions?
Q:Okay, then what do you think listeners hear when they first hear your music? What will they miss if they don't take a second listen?
A: I have been told that I have a powerful voice and that the songs are powerful. That blesses me immensely. I know that there are others out there more talented than myself & I hope that people don’t dismiss the music (and messages) by comparing my skill level to another. I’m always trying to improve and refine my abilities. I don’t want my inadequacies to stop me from doing what I was created to do.
Q:Who's your “guilty pleasure” musically?
A: ‘80s music….Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, The Go-go’s, Depeche Mode, The Cure…and…okay, I’ll say it out loud (in this century)…The Jonas Brothers.
Q: How can we find your music or connect with you?
A: You can always contact me directly at indigenoui [email protected] if you’d like to order a CD, rather than do a download.
Q:What do you wish we knew about you and about your music right now that we don't? Tell us, please.
A: I may describe myself as a singer-songwriter, but I’m really a “song catcher” I try to catch the messages I hear and adapt them into musical form. I always say that the truth doesn’t have to be complicated, but it helps if it’s catchy. I’m a work in progress and so is my music. I couldn’t do it alone. One of my favorite quotes is from the Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona who said, “Songs are born in absolute solitude, but they find accomplices”. I have been blessed to find so many talented “accomplices” along the way who have mentored, instructed, & encouraged me as well as lent their talents to my projects.
Dr. Dawn Karima Pettigrew (Creek/Cherokee) is a NAMMY winning recording artist, who hosts A CONVERSATION WITH DAWN KARIMA, a Native American radio program that airs on TalktainmentRadio.com and its affiliates. Her home is the Qualla Boundary Reservation in North Carolina.
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