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Heartbeat, Warble, and the Electric Powwow: American Indian Music  by Craig Harris

Published by University of Oklahoma Press

 

“HEARTBEAT, WARBLE, AND THE ELECTRIC POWWOW: AMERICAN INDIAN MUSIC by Craig Harris”Despite centuries of suppression and oppression, American Indian music survives today as a profound cultural force. Heartbeat, Warble, and the Electric Powwow celebrates in depth the vibrant soundscape of Native North America, from the “heartbeat” of intertribal drums and “warble” of Native flutes to contemporary rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with musicians, producers, ethnographers, and record-label owners, author and musician Craig Harris conjures an aural tapestry in which powwow drums and end-blown woodwinds resound alongside operatic and symphonic strains, jazz and reggae, country music, and blues.

Harris begins with an exploration of the powwow, from sacred ceremonies to intertribal gatherings. He examines the traditions of the Native American flute and its revival with artists such as two-time Grammy winners R. Carlos Nakai and Mary Youngblood. Singers and songwriters, including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Keith Secola, and Joanne Shenandoah, provide insights into their music and their lives as American Indians. Harris also traces American Indian rock, reggae, punk, and pop over four decades, punctuating his survey with commentary from such artists as Tom Bee, founder of Native America’s first rock band, XIT. Grammy-winner Taj Mahal recalls influential guitarist Jesse Ed Davis; ex-bandmates reflect on Rock Hall of Fame inductee Redbone; Robbie Robertson, Pura Fe, and Rita Coolidge describe how their groundbreaking 1993 album, Music for the Native Americans, evolved; and DJs A Tribe Called Red discuss their melding of archival powwow recordings into fiery dance music.

The many voices and sounds that weave throughout Harris’s engaging, accessible account portray a sonic landscape that defies stereotyping and continues to expand. Heartbeat, Warble, and the Electric Powwow is the story—told by those who live it—of resisting a half-millennium of cultural suppression to create new sounds while preserving old roots.

“An evocative snapshot of the musical landscape of Native North America.”—Philip J. Deloris, author of Playing Indian

“This book doesn’t miss a beat. It’s the most authentic study of the ongoing Spirit of our music in recent memory.”—Rev. Goat Carson, American Indian elder and Grammy Award winner

Percussionist, writer, and educator Craig Harris is author of The New Folk Music and The Band: Pioneers of Americana Music. He runs an award-winning music program, Drum Away the Blues, for children and adults and co-hosts a weekly music show for the Vision 7 Radio Network with the Gaea Star Band.