American Indian Music — Melody of the Soul

Good Morning!

Music.  I’ve had a love affair with music most of my life.  When I was four, I taught myself to play piano on my 3 octave toy piano (the black notes all played).  My mother demanded to know who had taught me and could hardly believe that I had taught myself with the little music book that had been sent with the toy.

For me, I would hate to think of what life would be like without music.  Music — it lifts our spirits, it lightens our load, it becomes our friend in rough or terrible times and a celebration when times are great.  Those with evil intentions use music to promote their propaganda — knowing that music can capture the spirit of a people and cause people to think certain ways about things that they might not otherwise believe.

And so today, I thought we might talk a little about music with a little twist — music Native American style.  Specifically the Native American Song.  I’ll be giving away a free paperback copy of SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE — the novel I’ve always said was my “musical.”  Yes, some lucky blogger will be the winner of this novel today so please come in and leave a comment.

  For those of you who haven’t heard many Indian songs, you might wonder what’s so different about a song in Native America.  In truth, though many Native American songs are like any other song, there are different considerations that attach themselves to Indian songs.  And it’s those considerations that I find fascinating.

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). Here’s the link:

Above is a picture of a drum.  Some people might say “drum group,” but the usual language is simply “drum.”  Off to the right here are a couple of  pictures of a couple of young men dancing.

These pictures were gotten,by the way, from the 26th Annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, NM.  The photographer is Derek Mathews.

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_drumrollcall31109_drumrollcall21  All of these pictures,by the way were taken by Le Andra Peters and are 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 don’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 may sing another’s song without permission.

Many of the songs make 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.”

Whatever the reason, I know that I love to dance at pow-wows.   Something about the music gets into your soul and before you know it, you’re out there with the other dancers, 21dancing your cares away.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my blog and I’d love to hear your take on many of these things.   Did you listen to any of the pow-wow music?  And if you did, tell me your thoughts.

SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE is a book about song and about the power of song.  Also THE LAST WARRIOR is about a particular song that’s so compelling, it frees the spirit.   If you’ve enjoyed this blog, consider having a look at Amazon, where, if you are a part of KindleUnlimited, you can read LAKOTA SURRENDER, PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN, LAKOTA PRINCESS, BLACK EAGLE and SENECA SURRENDER free.  So, c’mon, join the fun and have a look at them today.

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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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30 thoughts on “American Indian Music — Melody of the Soul”

  1. I love listening to the songs. We have a several tribes in Connecticut and I have seen them perform

    • Really? You do? I live on the East Coast, also. Do you have a pow-wow schedule? I might email you privately about the pow-wows in CT — hopefully that might be okay.

      • SCHEMITZUN!! (last week of August). My friend is a grass dancer and he dances in this pow wow sometimes.

        Hi Deb! 🙂

        • Mel, do you have a pow-wow schedule for the East Coast around the NY, CT, NJ areas? I haven’t been to a pow-wow in a while and I’d really like to go.

          • In my younger days, I used to do the Fancy Dance — now that I’m a little older, not so sure about that anymore, but would probably still like to try.

            • I used to dance too, Karen. Years ago I visited the Taos Pueblo and danced around a drum while a group of elderly Native Americans sang. They were so sweet! It was awesome! It was them, me, and my mom. Nobody else! We ate with them as well. Next pow wow I will join in on the dancing. Note: Friends, you cannot dance at a pow wow until invited. The MC will announce when the public can join the dancing!!!!!!!!!!

              Karen, I have this app on my phone.

              • Hi Mel!

                Sounds really wonderful. Life got busy for me and then moving and all and it’s been hard to a) get the time to go to a pow-wow and b) find them in my area. I’ll go to and see what I can find. : ) Thanks for the link.

          • Please e-mail me. Meljprincess AT aol DOT com. I have to go offline for a while. Tomorrow I can hook ya up! xo Melissa

            • Okay. I’ll get your email address onto my computer and send you off an email. : ) Thanks.

  2. That music is so moving! We have a program at our local museum where a local tribe comes in and demonstrates the drum and music all while dancing. They explain how the men and women dance differently. I always love to hear it and feel the movement of the music! Thanks for sharing this!

  3. I love pow wow music and own several pow wow CDs. One from The Gathering of Nations. You wrote exactly what I was going to say. The music goes deep down into my soul and makes me feel strong and happy. I went to a pow wow in TX a couple of years ago and (I know I shouldn’t have done this) but I got my phone out and taped some of the music. Now I can hear it wherever I go. I had a Native American friend who was extremely traditional. He told me if I went to his home I would not be allowed to touch his drum. I have quite an affinity with Native Americans. Always have. The music is brilliant. Enjoyed this post, Karen.

    • Hi Mel K.!

      Now that’s something I didn’t know about the drum, but that really makes sense. I do know that songs are owned and that no one should sing another’s song without permission. I love all this info.

          • Not as well as I’d like to be. Recovering from 2 Mastectomies. And I just found out I have Type II Diabetes. So it’s a new me. No more junk food. I’m losing weight (YAY) and trying to learn how to control my blood sugar.
            Glad you’re doing well. 🙂

  4. Wasn’t able to reach the music in your link. However, I have heard some songs before, and find them very powerful. Thanks for a very interesting post!

  5. Oh, that’s too bad that the links didn’t work for you. Maybe if you cut and paste?

    But I love that you’ve heard many of the songs before. So powerful.

  6. Hi Kay, what a great post, again. During my substitute-teaching stint, my favorite teacher always played soft music for the second graders to learn to. I so fell in love with one CD “Hides and Hands” that she gave me a copy. It was inspired by tribal music, and I feel such peace listening to it.

    • That’s so amazing, Tanya. Like you, although the music is so different from what we are used to hearing, it is inspiring — to do what one wishes to do — be that dance or relax. : )

  7. I did listen to the music. Miss it. We haven’t been to a really good pow wow since the best we ever attended at the Rose Bud Reservation in South Dakota. The regalia viewing was wonderful. My husband was invited to join the veterans in the flag raising and Veteran’s Dance. Our daughter was a fancy shawl dancer. I have done just the traditional women’s dance, and discovered that can be hard on the knees. I haven’t checked to see if there will be any pow wow when we are traveling in the Mod-west this year. Haven’t had time. If we can find one along our route, we will definitely stop for a bit. We did discover we liked the northern drum better than the southern drum. The rhythms are easier to dance to. More rhythmic to our ears.

    • Hi Patricia!

      Isn’t that interesting about the northern drum and the southern drum? Truth to tell, I hadn’t noticed a difference. But now that you mention is, I’m going to look for it.

      Yes, I used to dance fancy shawl — but it’s been a while now and I’m a bit older. But if I were to go to a pow-wow again, I would wear my regalia and at least try to do it again. : )

      Thanks so much for the post.

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