The Music of Native America

Good Morning!

Probably some of you have been to pow-wows and have heard the music of Native America.  Some might think of music in Native America as nothing more than drums and wooden flutes.  But there is so much more to the music and to the songs of our First Americans.  For a start, let’s have a look at Native American songs.  Interestingly, though many Native American songs are like any other song, there are different considerations that attach themselves to Indian songs.

Here’s a good place to start, where you can listen to some pow-wow music — the drum (this is a group — called the drum — it’s usually several men who sit around a drum and drum and sing — it is called simply a drum) for the opening song is Thunder Hill — but you can listen to some different drums, as well.  Here’s the link:

This is a picture of a drum.  Some people might say “drum group,” but the usual language is simply “drum.”  Off to the right here is a  picture of a young man dancing.  These pictures were gotten,by the way, from the 26th Annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque.  The photographer is Derek Mathews.

Here’s a video/music of round dance music — if you want to go and have a look:

And here’s some incredible pictures of some of the singers in different drums.  Many of these songs are passed down from generation to generation.  Some, however, are new.  Here’s some more pictures of these incredible singers.09_drumrollcall13109_drumrollcall28109_drumrollcall31109_drumrollcall21  All of these pictures,by the way were taken by Le Andra Peters andis from the website

Here’s some more pow-wow music:

Now, just a little bit of info about Indian songs.  This is from the book, The Indian How Book by Author C. Parker, who lived amongst the Indians.  Every song has a purpose and no one sings outright for fear of awakening spirits that are attracted to the song you’re singing.  The scales didn’t necessarily follow what we know of as the chromatic scale, which follow our string instruments, more or less.  But songs were owned and no one could sing another’s song without permission.

Many of the songs made you want to get up and dance — and dance and dance.  Once again, referring to Arthur C. Parker and his book, The Indian How Book, he says, “It may be that these old Indians were pagans, whatever that word may mean, but certainly they knew how to make men feel that there was a Great Spirit in whom we lived and moved and had our being.  Oddly enough, I have known white men and women, who felt the same way about the songs of the red people, and they have returned again and again to the councils of the Indians to drink in this feeling of mystery, this sense of unseen powers.

Below are some pictures of my own dancing at pow-wows.  It seems like forever since I’ve been to a pow-wow, but oh, how I love to dance, when I  do get to attend.  Something about the music gets into your soul and before you know it, you’re out there with the other dancers, dancing your cares away.



endtour1Hope you’ve enjoyed my blog today.  And now for a little picture tour of the books that I have out and ones that are soon to be released.  LAKOTA SURRENDER, LAKOTA PRINCESS, PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN and GRAY HAWK’S LADY  are all on sale and if you hurry, you can pick up an ebook copy of PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN and GRAY HAWK’S LADY for a song.  Here’s the link: and here’s the cover copy tour…  Come on in and let’s chat — by the way, please go back if you please and look at the winner’s of last week’s books.  I still haven’t heard from you and I do need an email from you both in order to know where to send the books.  Thanks!  Come on in and let’s chat!

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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27 thoughts on “The Music of Native America”

  1. When I was in grade school we went to Wisconsin Dells. They had an exhibition featuring Native Americans dancing to the drum. It was a moving experience. The costumes with their intricate beading… Gorgeous! I believe there are several pow wows that you can still attend in the summer time in Northern Wisconsin.

  2. Another great blog, Kay! I love going to pow wows.

    In high school (many years ago) a few of us were lucky enough to take an American Heritage class. This course combined our English class and History class, and part of that was experiencing not only what was in a book, but food, dance, music, etc from different eras in American History. Anyway, one week while studying Western expansion the teachers brought in dancers from the Wind River Reservation and we learned how to make the costumes (for the women we learned how to make jingle dresses using the lids from Skoal cans) and then we had our own pow wow. It was by far the day we all talked about the most. This post reminded me of how the music just seemed to fill our feet and carry us throughout the common area.

    Thank you for sharing these pictures and the music!

  3. Ive been to a powwow at the Cherokee Reservation in NC,,,was a kid but remember it so well,it was awesome! you always have the greatest an interesting posts,thanks for sharing


  4. ‘Just Dance 2’, comes back with a brand new tracklist of more than 40 popular songs. Each track has its own choreography. The Just Dance 2 Song list contains a wide range of music including classics to contemporary. Another cool feature is new music styles such as Bollywood or Reggaeton. And if that’s not enough, for those of you who still want more, you will be able to download music from an expanding catalogue of new hits all while using WiiWare. So grab a copy and enjoy the Just Dance 2 song list.

  5. Karen,
    I love your blogs. They always speak to my heart. I love the flutes and drums. I love the dancing and the colors! I will be checking out all of those websites.

    I have told you before of a group that I enjoy. They are a combination of the past and the present with flute drums keyboard quitar and dancers. Brule will be at Branson again this year I believe and they do a show for RFD Television.

  6. You teach us so much about Native Americans, Karen. I have some cd’s but don’t know how authentic they are. Are there any you can recommend that are the real thing?
    Loved your blog and your beautiful covers.

  7. Hi Laurie G.!

    That’s wonderful that you’ve seen a pow-wow in person — once you’ve seen them and been a part of them, they are forever in your blood, I think. There are many, many pow-wows here in So. CA — it’s a matter of my work schedule and the very little time I have left to do anything that I love nowadays. I have several part-time jobs, I’m afraid (the economy could definitely stand to be in better shape). But I love the pow-wows.

  8. Hi Kirsten!

    What a wonderful teacher — I have myself had the terrific experience of having some wonderful teachers, but never like this one that you had. Wow! Yes, once one has been a part of that music and that drum…the soul hungers for more…

    Someday I’ll get back there (before I get too old to be a fancy dancer). 🙂

  9. Hi Vickie!

    Wow! Thank you so much for your compliments on the blog. I do try. Like I said, someday, I’ll get back to a pow-wow — perhaps there might be a day in the future when my work schedule will allow it again. 🙂

  10. Hi Connie!

    Brule is one of my favorite groups also. Their music is so inspiring — I have several CD’s and tapes — yes the old tapes — from that group. I don’t watch TV — don’t get it — don’t miss it with all their propaganda for things that are forsaken (drugs, sex, criminality) — but if their performance gets to the internet where I could watch them perform, do let me know. I find their music inspiring, also.

  11. Hi Elizabeth!

    Thanks so much for your post. I do love the group, Brule, as I said before. Also, if you can get a CD from Black Lodge — that is real pow-wow music and they are the best, I think. There’s also — gosh what’s the name of that group — they did the song for LAKOTA WOMAN — another really inspiring group. 🙂

  12. Hi Karen. I work on an Indian Reservation and I hear this music alot. They play it on tapes in the buildings sometimes. And close to PowWow time they rehearse in a building I used to have an office in and could listen.
    I like hearing it. It’s got a really gut level appeal to me.

  13. Gorgeous covers! My one daughter and her boyfriend have regular sweat lodges – always on the full moon and then various others. They know many songs and have made the drums and various instruments. I attended one and thought it was lovely. They have a group of friends and then different invited guests that have Indian blood. They also have prayer circles. They have never attempted the dancing though.

  14. Hi Kay,
    You fancy dance? Wow! All I’ve ever done is the round dance. I have the shawl, too. Having the Education Center down the street where I worked for over 15 years, all the girls made shawls for themselves,with the fringe.
    A young man from Big Pine does the dance with the rings. He has been to a lot of Pow Wows doing this dance. And it’s almost summer and the Pow Wows start again.

  15. Your covers are always so HOT, Kay. Years ago, my daughter’s girl scout day camp (I chaperoned) had a Native American theme with real tribal visitors, and I got to wear a shawl and go a Navajo dance. What a wonderful memory.

    During my career as a sub-teacher, I often worked for a second grade teacher who always had NA music playing softly in the background. One of the CD’s, Hearts and Hides, I loved so much she got me a copy.

    I always learn so much from your posts, Kay. THanks for sharing what you now and love. oxoxo
    i always

  16. Hi Mary J!

    I love the pow-wow season, also. Yes, I actually fancy dance — I haven’t practiced for a while, though, because my schedule doesn’t allow me to go to pow-wow’s like I used to. And one does need to practice. : )

  17. Tanya,

    You are most kind, and I always love your posts, too. I’m afraid I’m going to have to get off the internet now and get down to some other work awaiting me.

    Put I’ll be back later.

  18. I have not seen a pow wow up close… I am sure it is a hundred times better than seeing it on TV or pics… once again thanks for sharing! 😀

  19. Great pictures, Karen. Thanks for the link for the music. It will be the background music for me tonight. We haven’t been to a pow-wow in quite a few years. One of these days we will go to the Gathering Of Nations. I read the announcement with the music link and my husband said “Lets go.” Won’t happen this year though.
    Our daughter was a fancy shawl dancer and really enjoyed it. The last time she danced was about 5 years ago when I had a mini pow-wow as part of my summer reading program. She injured her hip and had a hard time just doing the little she did then.

    For those who haven’t ever been, take the opportunity if you ever get it. The drum really does get into your blood. Many open some of the dances for audience participation. If nothing else, the regalia (what they are wearing) is worth the trip. I prefer the traditional regalia, but the fancy modern can be wild. Seeing the little ones all dressed up is always a treat.

    Thanks for another interesting post. I really need to get an e-reader sooner than later.

  20. Hi Colleen!

    Sorry I’ve been away from the computer for a while — so I’m a little slow in answering today. Yes, I know you would love a pow-wow were to go to one. Have a super evening! 🙂

  21. Hi Patricia B.

    Yes, now you know why I say I have to practice the fancy dance — it is very comsuming. And that drum does get into your soul.

    Interesting, interesting how much attention the pow-wows get when one can see them up close. It’s a part of who we are as a Nation — too bad we don’t have some sort of pow-wow holiday. 🙂

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