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Discussion #1 Dance through Latin America minimum 250 words
What are some of the African influences on the musical sounds in the Latin American
dance music that we learned about in this chapter? Please choose 2 musical elements
and discuss the specific African influence. Concentrate primarily on the MUSIC, rather
than the dance. Use detail.
Discussion #2 Music of Native North America minimum 250 words.
In your reading, (Native Classical section), refresh what you read about the concept
of non:wa (how traditional and contemporary inform each other). In 2-3 short paragraphs, please
a. How does this apply to the music that you studied in Chapter 12 (give at least 2 specific
musical examples)?
b. How does it apply to 1 SPECIFIC musical style in your own culture? Remember to tell us
what culture you are referring to.( african American)
NOTE; Please use this first text for reference below for discussion #1 and Discussion #2 at
the end of text starts with chapter 12 .
Visit Dance and Music of Latin America
Let’s Dance through Latin America
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We will be visiting many dances throughout Latin America, specifically Merengue in the
Dominican Republic, Cumbia in Colombia, and Marimba in Guatemala. With a longer in
Argentina, we will learn to dance the Malambo and Tango. Our last visit on this trip will be
Samba in Brazil.
Follow the link below and take a look at the globe to find Central and South America, by typing
in the countries for our itinerary – Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil.
Web GL Earth
Latin America consists of 20 countries and 14 dependent territories and includes the countries
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico and
Uruguay. The area is approximately 7.5 million square feet, almost 13% of the Earth’s land
The primary languages in Latin America are Spanish, Portuguese and English. French, Dutch
and others are also found, depending on the settler history of the area. The primary religion is
Roman Catholicism. Argentina has the largest representation of Judaism and Islam. Many
countries have their own currency, but due to the close relationship of some areas with Europe,
some use the Euro. Nearly all of the cultures are a blend of their Indigenous culture with the
European country that colonized them, along with the influence of areas from African due to
slave trade. Most Latin Americans are multi-ethnic and identify with both their nationality and
their ancestry. For example, eighty percent of the Mexican population consider themselves
Mexican mestizo, a mix of European Spanish and Indigenous ancestry (Maya being the largest of
over 78 distinct Indigenous groups). Latin American countries share some commonalities, Latin
languages, historical experience, culture and musical characteristics that are rooted in African
traditions. Of course, each culture and ethnic group are uniquely distinct, setting them apart from
each other.
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Dances in Latin America are rooted in the traditional dances of Indigenous peoples of Latin
America, European colonists and enslaved peoples during and after European
colonization. Indigenous roots include precisely structured, communal dances where dancers
move in intricate patterns. These dances were often for specific functions with movements that
symbolized the act of harvesting, planting, combat or the depiction of creation stories. The
syncretism (blending of cultural elements) of Native ritual movement with Catholic rituals began
with European contact. These became an important part of colonial religious festivals and were
adopted into some Native dances and rituals. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the fashionable
dances of European immigrants spread throughout Latin America. Contributions of African
dance movements, largely from Angola and the Congo, include improvisation, body isolations,
new footsteps and rhythms. A variety of Latin dances developed in different socio-economic
areas and most of the dances have several forms and styles, especially as they changed and
traveled. The dance tradition is part of the rich cultural heritage throughout Latin America and its
Dance is always with music and music is rarely without dance! In the upcoming destinations,
I have dedicated a few paragraphs to dance followed by a description of the music, but you will
see that they are inextricably connected. It is rare to listen to great Latin music, without wanting
to move. Most of the popular music in Latin America is specifically meant for dance, baring the
same title such as Bachata, bossa nova, rumba, salsa and son. We will only have time to explore
a few.
Musical commonalities found in the dance music of Latin America come from Indigenous
influences on melody and story, European impacts on instrumentation, meter and harmony, and
African influences on improvisation, rhythm and meter. Latin dance music often employs
syncopated rhythms that add a sensual feel to the music and often trigger hip movements. This
important word, syncopation, is defined as an accent or stress on beats that are not normally
considered strong beats, disrupting the accents in its meter. For example, if you count a meter of
1, 2, 3, 4 with the stresses being Strong, weak, Medium, weak. A syncopated beat might be a
strong stress on 4 or on the & of 2, as in tango.
Let us feel the syncopation of a tango rhythm.
Count 1&, 2&, 3&, 4&.
Continue counting the same meter, as you only clap on the 1&, &3 marked in red.
1&, 2&, 3&, 4&
Can you feel how this would affect the impetus for the dance movement?
DESTINATION 1: Dominican Republic
Our first stop is the beautiful Dominican Republic in the West Indies, where Merengue dance
and music seem to capture and shine on the spirit of the place and its people!
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The Dominican Republic (DR) shares an island with Haiti (occupying the eastern two-thirds of
Hispaniola). It has coasts on both the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Its national
capital Saint Domingo sits on the southern coast and has a total population of about 10.5 million
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As the second largest island of the Greater Antilles chain, the Dominican Republic has been no
stranger to political and civil disorder, ethnic tensions, military rule and interventions as well as
export-oriented highs and lows due to its politically strategic location to the United States. The
DR has also been no stranger to booming tourism with its diverse terrain and large stretches of
coast. It has thrived as a rich microcosm of blended cultures with a mixture of Spaniard
colonists, enslaved peoples and Taíno natives. Despite its many famous dances and musical
styles, merengue has gained notoriety as the national dance of the Dominican Republic.
Let’s Dance: Merengue
There are two popular versions of the origin story of the merengue. The first alleges that the
dance originated with enslaved peoples who were chained together and, out of necessity, were
forced to drag one leg as they cut sugar to the beat of drums. The second story is that during one
of the many revolutions in the Dominican Republic, a great hero suffered a leg wound. As a
party of villagers welcomed him home with a victory celebration, they all sympathetically
danced by dragging one foot. Both stories explain a characteristic of this dance that somewhat
resembles the movements of limping and dragging one foot. A very different story comes from
Haiti where there is a similar dance called meringue or mereng that may come from the light,
short rhythms that are similar to the light and frothy merengue confection made of sugar and egg
At first glance, merengue dance may appear relatively simple with a few alternating steps back
and forth. Merengue is a fusion of European and African cultures, the African and French
minuets of the late 1700’s, the Spanish decema and plena seen in the “Big Houses” of plantation
owners. When the enslaved peoples, mostly of Angola and Congo had their own festivities, they
would imitate some of those movements and add their own flair with a slight upbeat skip or hop
that went with the drum rhythm. There are many types of merengue. Known today as an
individual couple’s dance, the original merengue was a circle dance where men and women faced
each other at arm’s length while holding hands. The original movements were focused on
shoulder shaking and swift foot movement. The original form, merengue típico, had a very set
structure that highlighted European influences. Folk merengue is recognizable by dancers who
keep their upper body straight while moving their hips in a circular motion. It is practiced in the
rural areas of Dominican Republic. Ballroom merengue is a partner dance where dancers are
close together as they spin and twirl in a slow circle. The steps have a limping characteristic in
the feet and body movement, as reflected in the origin stories. In this style, the slow tempo and
movements are controlled. Club merengue, similar to ballroom merengue, is a more urban and
erotic style that is the most popular among younger generations. In the late 19th century,
merengue was banned from social halls and began to disappear from urban culture due to its
“vulgar” lyrics and association with the lower class.
Merengue Music
Early Merengue music, Merengue tipico, is usually referred to as perico ripiao, and is the oldest
style commonly played. The other two types of merengue are Merengue de orquesta (big band
merengue) and Merengue de guitarra (guitar merengue).
Merengue music is upbeat with fast beat in 2 or 4, but with a five-beat rhythmic pattern called
quintillo. The tempo can vary depending on the setting. In many versions, the music is divided
into three parts or sections: paseo (introduction) merengue (verse), jaleo (chorus). The paseo
(walkling section) refers to a slower melodic opening followed by alternating merengue verses
and jaleo choruses. There is an improvised instrumental solo section that occurs after some
jaleos and the last jaleo speeds up, ending the song.
Various overlapping instruments create a unique sound, adding to the bright timbre of the
music. Merengue tipico was played by guitars with 3 strings (tres), 4 strings (cuatro), and 5
strings (quinto) accompanied by the lively percussion rhythms of the tambora (two-sided,
wooden drum), the guira (metal scraper) and the marimba bass. Call and response with vocalists
was a means to encourage audience participation. When German immigrants introduced the
accordion in 1870, its dominant notes and stabbing staccato phrases that created a layered and
light sound, replaced the strings, establishing a definitive merengue sound and style. In modern
merengue, one may also hear the influence of jazz with the addition of trumpets, saxophones and
Image @ Shutterstock.com
Despite its early perception as “obscene” music of the lower classes, Juan Baptista Alfonseca
composed many merengue songs in the 1850s that introduced a new national folk style to the
upper classes. The most popular merengue musician was the accordionist Francisco “Ñico” Lora
from the Cibao, who wrote more than 500 merengues in the early 20th century. In this next
video, you will hear one of compositions.
Listen to this early merengue recording. What instruments and rhythms do you hear? Who has
the melody? What makes it danceable?
“San Franciso by Ñico Lora”
Merengue Political Music
In the 1930s, merengue came into its own during the dictatorship of Rafael Turjillo. As a fan,
Trujillo asked several bands to write merengue music to promote his political campaign. He
remained a champion of merengue as the national music of the Dominican Republic.
“Compadre Pedro Juan,” by composer Luis Alberti became an international hit
that standardized a 2-part merengue form.
How is this song more modern? Can you recognize the jazz instruments that make it sound more
Compadre Pedro Juan – Francis Santana
Unfortunately, Trujillo’s rule was a reign of terror and the somber mood of the country was often
reflected in its music. After his assassination of in 1961, merengue started to incorporate
elements from American rock, R&B and Cuban salsa. The instrumentation changed to include
electronic guitars and synthesizers that sometimes replaced the traditional accordion.
Contemporary Merengue
In the 1970’s, Johnny Ventura was called the undisputed King of Merengue. In the 1980’s
Wilfrido Vargas and Juan Luis Guerra integrated outside influences from rock, jazz, salsa, zouk,
soukous, reggae, house and rap to modernize merengue. While most modern merengue bands
have replaced the accordion with a synthesizer and multiple brass horns, the tipico form is still
very much alive.
Look for the dance after Ventura sings for a bit. How did merengue change from the early tipico?
“Johnny Ventura – Merenguero Hasta La Tambora”
An awesome ensemble with a lot of horns!
Wilfrido Vargas – El Comejen
Check out this very fast tempo and the wonderful photos in this selection.
Juan Luis Guerra – La Cosquillita
A large influx of Dominicans joined the Puerto Rican population in New York City, where salsa
romantica was already popular. They were performed in dancehalls and on the radio.
LAST NIGHT OUT in the Dominican
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What’s on the Menu?
Before we travel to our next destination, let’s share a traditional Dominican Republic meal. It is
called moro de habichuelas con coco a blend of beans, rice and coconut.
Dinner Conversation
1. Research the politics behind Merengue music and dance. What original status did it have?
How, when and why did it change?
2. Where can you find Merengue today? Where is it performed, by whom and for what
3. Compare and contrast the merengue videos. Describe the changes that you hear and see.
DESTINATION 2: Colombia Cumbia
Next, we will travel to Cartagena, Colombia, along the Caribbean coast, where blends of
African, European and Indigenous cultures resulted in a popular music called cumbia. The
national dance of Colombia, cumbia is one of the most appreciated dances and musical “mashup” styles in the region.
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Colombia, officially known as the Republic of Colombia, is the only country in South
America that has a coastline on both the Pacific ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Colombia was
colonized by Spain in 1499 and gained its independence in 1810. About twice the size of France,
Colombia borders Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador and is made up of a variety of
geographical landscapes from flat coastal lowlands to high Andes Mountains. It is the second
most biodiverse country in the world, second to Brazil.
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The capital of Colombia is Bogota, a populous mountainous area, but the other six well known
major urban areas are Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, and Cartagena. The official
language is Spanish and Roman Catholicism makes up 79% of the population. Although initially
inhabited by several Indigenous groups, the racial ethnicities that now make up Colombia are
mestizo and caucasian 87.6%, Afro-Colombian (includes mulatto, Raizal, and Palenquero) 6.8%,
Amerindian 4.3%, unspecified 1.4%. The government is considered a presidential republic and
uses the Colombian peso as currency.
Let’s Dance: Cumbia
Image @ Luz Zuluaga Photography / Shutterstock.com
Cumbia, originally danced and played by escaped enslaved peoples and Indigenous peoples of
Colombia, was used as a courtship dance where its participants would dress in all white. Like
many Latin dances, the rhythmic syncopation (accents placed on unusual beats) makes it
irresistible for physical movement. The music existed before the dance was created. The dance
expresses the love between a man and woman. Each country has its own variations, for example
Mexican cumbia can have over 35 turns in a 4-minute song. Salvadorian and Colombian cumbia
may have approximately 5 turns per song. As the dancers follow the rhythms, it is a sensual style
typically performed in pairs and in the evening. Women dance with a shuffling step while the
men circle in a zigzag pattern around them. Incorporated into the larger Colombian culture from
its original roots, the dance is mostly performed at festivals, carnivals and clubs.
Cumbia Music
Traditionally, cumbia music had a basic 2/4 or 2/2 meter with drums and other percussion
borrowed from African traditions. Its upbeat quality is created by quick tempi consisting of short,
repeated melodic phrases that encourage dancing.
Instruments come from the same cultural traditions as the dance. West African influences on
percussion include a variety of drums, including the bombo (a large bass drum), tambor alegre (a
mid-range drum) and the llamador (a small drum). The Native Colombian influence is found in
the melodic flutes while the gaita is an Indigenous wind instrument from the Cuna, Kogui and
Zenue tribes of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. European violins and guitars were later replaced by
the accordion. Indigenous, African and European influences create the bright and colorful sounds
and aesthetics of cumbia music and dance. Due to international interest in the 1950’s and 60’s,
cumbia added more percussion, electric bass, synthesizers, trumpets, trombones, saxophones,
clarinets and silver flutes.
Native Colombian flutes are used to play the melody with melodic variations and choreography
from European traditions. The gaita is an Indigenous wind instrument from the Cuna, Kogui and
Zenue tribes of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
Here is a wonderful explanation of cumbia.
“What is Cumbia. Colombia’s National Dance Explained”
Below is a clip of a traditional cumbia.
“Cumbia, Columbia – América Baila”
Modern Cumbia Traditions
Today, cumbia is played across class and culture, having become popular all over the world.
Female cumbia dancers wear bold earrings, flower headdresses, heavy and colorful makeup, and
long skirts with sequins. Male cumbia dancers wear a red bandana, white pants, a white shirt and
a sombrero.
Today, more emphasis is put on the vibrancy and color of the costumes, and the dance and music
have incorporated modern musical sounds, but the traditional aspects of cumbia can still be seen
and heard. Los, Shapis, Alfredo Gutierrez, and Marimba Orquesta Gallito are a few examples of
who still plays traditional cumbia music today.
Ceslo Pina, a Mexican singer and composer, is one of the better known, modern cumbia artists.
He is known for his fusion of tropical sounds placed over original cumbia musical elements. Pina
taught himself how to play the accordion which is now a trademark of his sound. He and his
band are internationally famous, having toured throughout Europe, South America and the
United States.
Ceslo Pina’s energetic performance in concert
Another well-known band with a cumbia flavor is Los Lobos. This video below is a popular
song, “Kiko and Lavender Moon”, that includes many elements of cumbia music with the
addition of various string, wind and percussion instruments to create the sensual, rhythmic sound
of cumbia.
Los Lobos – Kiko And The Lavender Moon
Contemporary Cumbia
Many mainstream popular musicians in the Latin American community, like Shakira, Selena,
and Becky G use the cumbia rhythm in their songs.
“Shakira Cumbia De Colombia”
“Selena Baila esta Cumbia (Live from the Astrodome)
LAST NIGHT OUT in Colombia
What’s on the Menu?
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Before we head out on our next flight, let’s have a very famous Colombia dish called bandeja
paisa that consists of chicharrón (fried pork belly), black pudding, sausage, arepa, beans, fried
plantain, avocado egg, and rice.
Dinner Conversation
1. How is the energy and vibrancy of cumbia music evident in the music videos of Ceslo
Pina and Shakira? Be sure to comment on the dance or movement of the musicians, the
audience, the engagement of the performer with the audience, the kinds of instruments
used and specific musical elements in the song (rhythm, melody, form, tempo,
dynamics). What does this modern cumbia have in common with the traditional cumbia
and what is new? Are there any examples from your own music playlist that you can
relate to their concept of mixing old and new?
DESTINATION 3: Guatemala Marimba
Let’s pack up our bag for our next dancing destination – Guatemala!
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The Republic of Guatemala is known for its volcanic landscapes and beautiful lakes. Guatemala
contains the highest Mayan population in Central America. Mayan ruins that trace back to the
history of Mayan civilization are visited regularly as a tourist destination. Guatemala has a
population of 17.25 million. There are 25 different languages spoken – Spanish, and in more rural
languages, 21 Mayan languages, and two other Indigenous languages, Garifuna and Xinca.
Guatemala is known globally for its handicrafts and textiles souvenirs, both of which are a bright
expression of Mayan Culture. Coffee production is an important element in Guatemala’s
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Marimba Dance
Many traditional Mayan ceremonial, religious and social dances were accompanied by the
marimba. At Guatemala’s Totonicapan, a two-day festival, seven main dances traditions of
Mayan culture are celebrated: danza de los monos (dance of the monkeys), danza de los venados
(dance of the deer), danza de la conquista (dance of the conquest), danza de los pascarines
(dance of the pascarines), danze de los vaqueros (dance of the cowboy), danze de los Mexicanos
(dance of the Mexicans), danza de los xacalcojes (dance of the xacalcojes), and danza de Moros
y Cristianos (dance of the Moors and Christians). Each is performed by a group of dancers and
usually accompanied by a single musician and a marimba or a small drum.
These dances recall historical practices or myths and folklore. For example, the danza de los
venados may be interpreted as a struggle between hunters and wild animals, fighting among
themselves over the meat of the deer. The dance promises a feast in which there is enough meat
for everyone.
The Marimba and Marimba Music
There is long-standing debate about whether the celebrated Mayan marimba came from African
xylophone instruments. In one of the largest cities and archaeological sites called the Tikal
Temple, there is a set of three turtle shells, mounted between two sticks. For some, this early
record reveals that a marimba-like instrument was played by the Maya in Mesoamerica as early
as 1680, likely used for ceremonial dancing, religious and social celebration.
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Many firmly believe the word itself, marimba, of African Bantu language origin, along with the
use of gourd resonators, a clear African inspiration, suggest that it was brought to South America
in the early 16th Century by either enslaved peoples or by pre-Columbian African contact.
Possible ancestors of the Latin marimba were brought over to Central and South America by
enslaved peoples from Senegambia, Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast of Africa. Gourds were
swapped with resonator pipes made of wood and eventually some were made of metal, resulting
in the most modern version of the marimba.
Marimba is a type percussion instrument that consists of wooden bars played with yarn or rubber
mallets, akin to the xylophone. An idiophone with a rich, deep tone, the marimba is central to
Guatemala’s traditional style music.
The tempo of marimba music is usually slow and consistent with a steady beat. It is an
instrument that symbolizes strength and is considered a vehicle for memory and expression of
cultural identity and political resistance. During the 16th and 17th century Spanish conquest,
Mayans were forbidden from playing marimba, practicing their religion and participating in any
cultural activities.
The marimba officially became the national instrument of Guatemala in 1978. It is made of palm
wood bars played by 3-4 people at the same time. Today marimbas are set up and tuned similarly
to a piano.
Image © Lucy.Brown/Shutterstock.com
Guatemalans are known to play music in public areas: on the streets, festivals and large
community celebrations and parties. A symbol of national pride, the marimba is played for
tourists as a special part of experiencing Guatemala. It is taught by oral tradition from teachers to
children as an important way of preserving the traditional culture. It is often accompanied by
maracas (a type of Latin American rattle), wind instruments and other percussion instruments
and more recently with bass and drums.
Here is a brief video explaining the marimba.
“Guatemalan and Mexican Marimba Traditions”
Popular Marimba Music
The marimba remains an active part of cultural preservation and national pride and is
incorporated into modern and popular music.
Here you can see several men adjacent to each other playing the marimba with upright bass and
“Marimba Maderas Chapinas – El Rey Quiche”
In this video you see the dancers and musicians. Notice the slower tempo.
“La Caida Del Sol”
Here is an arrangement of a song that we learned about on our visit to South Africa. It is played
by an all women ensemble from Guatemala. Go to 2:32 for the main theme.
“The Lion King (Medley in Marimba by Guatelmalan sisters)”
LAST NIGHT OUT in Guatemala
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What’s on the Menu?
Let’s try Guatemala’s national dish Pepian with corn maize tamales and rice on the side. Pepian
is a delicious stew made with slow-cooked meats, tomatoes, onions, poblano peppers and
potatoes, thickened with seeds and nuts, spiced with cumin and peppercorns.
Dinner Conversation
1. It is interesting to look more into the history of the instrument marimba? Do some
research on one of the many ethnic groups in Africa that used a similar instrument called
the balafon. Look into the instrument and the musical culture behind them. Be sure to
find out who played the instruments, for what purpose, where, and what kind of music?
How is it similar to the instrument and musical culture in Guatemala? Can you see how
the balafon and its culture are ancestor or predecessor of the marimba?
DESTINATION 4: Argentina Malambo
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On the vast plains extending across Argentina, malambo dance was born. Grab your backpack
and make your way to Pampas, Argentina and explore the rhythmic sounds and energetic dance.
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Pampas, a province named after the Quechua word for “flat surface,” extends westward across
the central Argentina grasslands, from the Atlantic coast to the Andean foothills, bounded by the
Gran Chaco in the north) and Patagonia in the south. The lush and fertile lands make for perfect
grazing territory for cattle and other livestock. The greater Las Pampas area has a population of
roughly 15 million. Under Spanish rule, cattle and horses were introduced, but little attempt was
made toward land development. After the Spanish liberation in 1816 and the extermination of
many of Indigenous peoples who roamed the plains, landowners began to employ immigrants
from Italy to cultivate their ranches.
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Railways were built across the Pampas, the Gauchos (mestizos of mixed European and Native
ancestry) gradually became an important cultural archetype of the area. Hard working farm
hands and railway laborers are believed to descend from the Roma (“gypsies”) of Europe. The
Gaucho population flourished from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century and have become folk
heroes similar to cowboys in the United States. Beginning in the late 19th century, La literatura
gauchesca (Gaucho literature) based on their own ballads and legends became a celebrated part
of Argentina’s cultural tradition.
Image © Shutterstock.com
Let’s Dance: Malambo
Malambo is a folk-dance tradition that was born in the Argentine Pampas region around the
1600s. During the 19th century, the malambo was danced by the gaucho population to prove their
prowess and vigor. The all-male malambo dancers mastered tap dancing in rancher’s boots,
making intricate movements and sounds. Among the most important malambo moves are the “la
cepillada” where the dancers brush the sole of their foot on the ground and “el repique” where
they strike the back part of their boot to the floor to create rhythms. Malambo dancers barely
touch the ground with their feet, but all moves are energetic and complex.
The dance itself is characterized by mudanzas – one dancer performs a series of foot movements
in a very small area. In itself, these taps against the floor are the complement to many other
dances but in malambo they are the dance itself. Each mudanza completes a unique cycle or
figure. When in competition, the person who can perform the widest variety, the most
complex and the most difficult mudanzas wins.
Malambo dancers use boleadoras, a type of weapon thrown to capture animals. Made of weights
on each end of a rope, in performance it is used as a prompt and an instrument that complements
their tap dancing. The technique of malambo dancers has been compared to that of classical
ballerinas, in rhythm, strength, agility and speed. It is believed that in the 17th and 18th centuries,
the bravest dancers danced around knives and candles.
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Watch the speed and strength as this dancer swings the “weapon” and stomps his boots.
“Malambo Boleadoras”
For over 35 years, malambo dancers from all over Argentina gather to celebrate the National
Festival Malambo in a small town in Cordoba called Laborde. This video shows some amazing
festival performers and explains a little more about malambo.
“Argentina: Dancers Gather for the 2018 Malambo Festival”
Malambo Music
Malambo music and dance are very deeply interwoven, where the dancers and costumes become
the primary instruments. The music has no lyrics and is based entirely on rhythm with the drum
and/or the guitar as the instruments that may accompany the dance. Dancers may play the drum
as a prelude to the dance and when they start moving create music from the back part of their
boots. The tempo is quick and dramatic. When the dance ends, it cues any accompanying
instruments to stop.
Today’s Malambo
Malambo is mostly performed for tourism or special cultural events. Che Malambo is an all-male
contemporary Argentinian dance company who fuses traditional elements into modern
choreography as a staged spectacle.
“Che Malambo”
Our next destination is the sensual Tango of the Buenos Aires region in Argentina!
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Buenos Aires was established by Spanish settlers. Over the centuries it was taken back by the
Indigenous population and later the Argentine army. In 1806, the British, who were trying to
gain imperialist power in South America, were defeated by the Argentine army who encouraged
the local population to govern themselves. This rebellious spirit is part of the Argentinian
persona and is certainly expressed in many of the arts. In the latter part of the 1800s-1900s,
Argentina became a leading destination for European immigrants, this mix of cultures and
passionate pride in their city, resulted in a multi-cultural city. To put things into perspective, in
1869 Buenos Aires had a population of 180,000. By 1914, its population was 1.5 million. In the
working-class neighborhoods or barrios of Bueno Aires, working class European immigrants,
Indigenous Argentinians and former enslaved Africans lived side by side. Their respective
histories and social experiences were translated into a multi-cultural dance and musical tradition
that became part of the Argentine identity.
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Eva Peron
Let’s Dance: Tango
The tango originated during the late 1700s, on the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born at
the seaports of Buenos Aires, tango originated as a culture of the “people of the port,” known as
porteños, who were characterized as a lower-class subculture supported by the influx of
travelers, natives and immigrants, trades people and sailors who indulged in the bordellos and
drinking taverns of Buenos Aires. Early on, tango was banned by the church because of its
association with places and people that were considered immoral.
An important key figure in Argentine political and popular culture was Eva Perón, more
affectionately known as Evita. A model, film actor and radio star, her radio broadcasts became a
primary vehicle in campaigning for her husband, who attained the presidency in 1946. They
appealed to the working class and supported a resurgence of tango as a primary national art
form. Perón had used tango and tango artists for his political purposes, and many famous tango
artists were involved with his political movement. When a second coup occurred in 1955, many
artists were either imprisoned or blacklisted by the new regime. Until the fall of that military
regime in 1983, tango was rarely performed in public, but was practiced underground and
became of interest around the world. Today almost anyone in the United States can find a tango
class in their local dance studio, tango ensembles tour the world, children are offered tango
classes in after school programs and one can see tango being performed in major movies,
including “The Tango Lesson,” “The Obsession,” “Scent of a Woman,” “Schindler’s List,”
“Assassination Tango” and “Moulin Rouge.”
Image @ irisphoto1 / Shutterstock.com
Here is a scene from the movie “Take the Lead,” with Antonio Banderas. At around 50 seconds,
you can see the original style of tango with three dancers as two male dancers vie for the
attention of one woman.
“Take the Lead”
The word tango has many suggested origins. From the Lengas language in Africa, it is translated
as a “closed place” or “private space where people needed permission to enter” or “reserved
ground.” This term was used by some enslaved peoples to refer to the place where they were
reunited before being sent to the Americas. The word tango was believed to sound like the
beating of the drums. With the slave trade being prominent for several centuries, the African
influence on the history of tango is prominent. Another theory is that it may derive from
Portuguese (and from the Latin verb tanguere, to touch) and was picked up by Africans on the
slave ships. In some of the Canary Islands tango meant “gathering of blacks dancing to drum
The original “folk” dance was an improvisation by three dancers with two men competing for the
affection of a woman. This love triangle guides the dancers through various moods as the men
vie for a fickle woman. The moods are expressed in the music with changing dynamics, timbres,
melodies and tempo. Movements that are appropriate to the emotion and speed of a tango are
extremely important. One is considered a virtuosic dancer if they can transmit the feeling of the
music and lead their partner effectively throughout the dance. Often danced in a close embrace,
most of the movements remain below the waist and can be essentially understood as walking
with a partner and the music. Feet are often kept close to the floor, ankles and knees brushing as
one leg passes the other. With more experience and skills, Argentine tango dancers learn
complicated patterns and steps such as leg drops and wraps, dips, embraces, swivels, and fancy
footwork. An extensive guide to tango terminology can be found here: A Guide to Tango
Here is a short history and explanation of tango.
“Tango & gender in Argentina”
The origins of tango movement are a powerful blend of the Candombe ceremonies of former
enslaved African peoples and the Argentine milonga (a fast-paced polka).
In this documentary preview, Angolan filmmaker Dom Pedro explores the expression of African
influences on the tango. The musical performances and interviews from many tango fans and
historians in Latin America and Europe include the renowned Argentinian tango pianist Juan
Carlos Caceres.
“Tango Negro by Dom Pedro, Film preview”
In this next video, note not only the fancy foot work of the dance, but also the tango music
ensemble and rhythm. What instruments are in this performance? How do the melodies, rhythms,
mood, tempo and dynamics go with the dance?
“Tango Argentina”
Ballroom Tango
Ballroom tango, created by Vernon and Irene Castle in the early 1900s, was understood as a
“sanitized” version of tango, eliminating most erotic gestures as well as the love triangle concept
by dropping the second male performer. This version had standardized steps designed by dance
studios for instruction and dissemination. Although Argentine tango has been an evolving dance
and musical form, with continual changes occurring every day on the social dance floor in
Argentina and in major tango centers elsewhere, Ballroom Tango has remained a relatively fixed
style for decades. The patterns and sequences of steps used by instructors to teach
tango demonstrate the speed and quality of the step as smooth, sharp or pulsing.
Tango Music
Tango music is characterized by changes of mood created by fluctuations of tempo, melody,
register, timbre, key (major/minor) and dynamics. The musician keeps the mood “off-balance,”
by frequently changing these musical elements. The basic tango rhythm is “1&-&3—” in a four
pulse, duple meter. This syncopated rhythm further emphasizes the “off-balance” feeling.
Much of the recorded music from the early 20th century came as the dance tradition gained
global popularity. A precursor of the tango called milonga, was danced in poor neighborhoods of
Buenos Aires and Montevido. Categorized a type of tango, milonga has a faster tempo and fewer
pauses, and the movement is quicker due to relaxation in the legs and bodies. In some areas, the
word milonga also refers to dance parties.
The primary instrument for the tango is the bandoneón (a small button accordian originally from
Germany). Traditionally tango was performed by solo bandoneón or a small ensemble joined by
flute, piano, double bass and violin. Today, tango can be performed by big bands, full orchestras
and electronic instruments.
Image @ Shutterstock.com
This video features a milonga dance with a trio of bandoneón, piano and violin. Notice how
powerful and passionate the music is with only 3 instruments and how quickly the dancers
perform their movements.
“Zotto dancing milonga”
This short video features a larger ensemble with a Ballroom Tango. What instruments do you see
and hear? What makes this dance sensual? Take note of the setting and costumes.
“Tango Argentine”
Tango Nuevo
Grammy winning composer/performer, Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992), began writing tango
“compositions” blending elements of jazz and classical music. He started out by playing
traditional tangos on the bandoneón as a young child and left traditional Latin American tango
bands in 1955 to create a new style of tango. At first, his new rhythms, counterpoint,
instrumentation and harmonies were not well received in Argentina, but were of great success in
Europe and the United States, so he left to work in Italy. In 1960, he formed a quintet featuring
violin, electric guitar, piano, upright bass and bandoneón, called Quinteto Nuevo Tango for
which he composed over 750 pieces. He also composed works for symphonic orchestras, big
band, and cello with many of his works performed on the concert stage and used in films. During
the 1980s, his success brought about a world-wide interest in the tango and he became the
national composer of Argentina. Piazzolla is considered a major Latin American tango composer
of the 20th century crossing many genres with newer works called tango nuevo (new tango).
This next video features a composition called Libertango. As can be seen from its name (Liberty,
Tango), it symbolizes Piazzolla’s break from traditional tango to tango nuevo. In this recording
session below, what instruments do you hear and see? What makes the passion build to the end
of this performance?
“Libertango (Piazzolla) Yo Yo Ma”
Contemporary Tango Style Cover with English lyrics
Electronic Tango
This last example is Bajofondo Tango Club, sometimes referred to as electronica tango.
Music video by Bajofondo performing Pide piso. (C) 2013 Sony Music Entertainment
LAST NIGHT OUT in Argentina
What’s on the Menu?
Image @ Shutterstock.com
Let’s have one of Argentina’s favorite dishes – slow-cooked Asado (barbecued meat) with
chimichurri, a green salsa. Argentina is particularly known for its fine cuts of grass-fed beef and
cattle ranches. For dessert dulce de leche, a kind of milky caramel.
Image @ Shutterstock.com
Dinner Conversation
1. Watch tango clips from three feature films and compare: the style of
tango? instrumentation? setting? costumes? and its function in the movie? Is it an
accurate depiction of tango, or tango-like? How can you distinguish the two?
The Last Dance
Image @ Shutterstock.com
© timyee/Shutterstock.com
Our first stop in Brazil is Rio de Janeiro where we will attend Carnival and see amazing
performances created by different Samba Schools.
Image @ Shutterstock.com
The federative republic of Brazil is the largest country in Latin America with over three million
square miles of land and the sixth most populous country in the world with over 211 million
inhabitants. It shares a border with every South American country except Ecuador and Chile. The
official language of Brazil is Portuguese, making it the only nation in the Americas to do so.
Thanks to a century of immigration from around the globe, Brazil is also known for having a
very diverse and multi-ethnic population. It is known especially for its beautiful beaches, music,
sports, art and architecture that attracts millions of tourists every year.
Image @ marchello74 / Shutterstock.com
Like most Latin American music, Brazil was highly influenced by African and European styles.
It encompasses many different genres of music such as forro, sertanejo, axe, bossa nova, funk
carioca, but also Brazilian versions of foreign styles such as rock, pop, soul, gospel, and
classical. The sounds are full of passion, enthusiasm and energy.
Samba developed as an urban dance in the favelas of Brazil around the 20th century. Its roots
trace back hundreds of years to customs and traditions brought to Brazil by enslaved Africans.
Many slaves from Angola and the Congo were first brought to Bahia, a region in northeastern
Brazil along the Atlantic Ocean, before migrating to the rural areas of Rio. The word “samba” is
thought to come from the Angolan word “semba” which refers to an invitation to dance.
Enslaved Angolans and their descendants mixed their traditional dances with the 17th century
Brazilian dance maxixe (a type of couples dance), the European polka, and African traditions,
creating the first form of samba. Traditionally, male dancers wore regular attire, while female
dancers had dresses, skirts and elaborate head-dresses.
Thanks to the annual world-famous carnival of Rio where professional samba schools of Brazil
perform throughout the event, samba has become an icon of Brazilian culture. Carnival is a prelent festival with an extravagant parade that consists of enormous floats, elaborate costumes,
synchronized choreography and strong music. Rio de Janiero has one of the largest Carnival
celebrations, blocking off streets to accommodate thousands of guests and an extensive
parade. Dancers, costume designers, choreographers, musicians, carpenters, engineers, light
designers, electricians and more prepare to perform and compete a year in advance in local
samba schools.
Let’s Dance: Samba
Dancers called passistas wear colors assigned by their school and ornate costumes. While males
may wear colorful pants with ruffles, the ladies wear jewel-incrusted bikinis, with elaborate
feathered headpieces and feathered heels or boots. Costumes may also be elaborately designed in
specific themes, setting one samba school apart from the other. The African dance maxixe and
the European lundu are precursors to the dance.
Dancing samba consists of simple forward and backward steps and tilting, rocking body
movements, to highly syncopated rhythms. It can be danced as a group, alone, or as a couple, but
in Carnival samba schools is danced in groups that can have as large as 100 dancers. Couples in
ballroom position may dance in place or around the floor executing a variety of steps. It may
seem easy to do when explained, but it is one of the most difficult dances, due to the speed and
coordination it demands.
Samba Music
Early on, the Brazilian instruments were made up of flutes, whistles, hand clapping, foot
stomping, horns and rattles. Largely of West African influence, the dominant instrument group is
percussion, comprised of many different types of drums, including a strong bass drum called the
surdos, a notched scraper called rêco-rêco and a metal bell called the agogo. One of the most
famous instruments is the cuica (a small friction drum in which a string is pulled through the
membrane to create the sound “cuica”). Given the strong African influence in the music, the
musical genre is Afro-Brazilian.
An easily recognizable rhythm in samba is similar to the syncopated rhythm in the tango
1&,2&,3&,4&, but with complex layered polyrhythms played by the many percussion
The polyrhythms are loud and exciting. Sambistas shout and sing to encourage a party
atmosphere. Today’s samba may also include electric guitars and keyboards.
Modern Samba
How does each Samba School present itself in this extravaganza?
“Carnival Rio de Janeiro Stunning Parade!”
What’s on the Menu?
Image @ Shutterstock.com
The national dish of Brazil is Feijoada, a thick stew made with different cuts of pork and black
beans. The stew is slow-cooked and can take up to 24 hours. Another delicious stew that you can
order is Moqueca, a fish stew served in a clay pot with tomatoes, onions and spices. Both stews
vary slightly according to the tastes of each region. You can always order the popular Brazilian
barbecue of grilled meats called picanha, but be sure to have an appetite, as the meat will keep
on coming. For dessert, I would recommend brigadeiros a type of chocolate truffle named after
Brigadier Eduoardo Gomes.
Dinner Conversation
1. Revisit the Rio de Janeiro carnival video and choose 4 different themes created by Samba
School presenters. Discuss their theme and how they presented their section of the parade
through music, instrumentation, visuals including their float, movements, costumes and
outrageous presentation. How is each one different than the rest and how did they try to
make theirs the best for the competition?
Last Discussion
1. Compare and contrast the music and dance of the six areas that we visited in Latin
America. How are their histories and influences similar or different? How are the aspects
of performance similar or different? What sounds are similar or different and how are
they different?
Discussion #2 REFREANCE TEXT.
CHAPTER 12: Visit Music of Native North
Turtle Island by Kate Freer
Where are we going?
In this chapter, we will visit several Native Nations and communities on Turtle Island (North
America). These sovereign nations each have their own culture, so our visits will be as if we are
traveling through international borders across the continent. As in all of our cultural visits, we
can only visit a few areas in the United States and are unable to visit the Indigenous people of
South and Central America. Since many people are unaware that the First Nations people of
Turtle Island are living cultures, I will concentrate largely on Native contemporary music. The
importance of keeping culture alive and bringing back culture means that both traditional and
contemporary arts are practiced and we will look at what that means in several communities.
On the globe search link below, first seek the general area of the Powhatan Confederacy by
putting “Chincoteague (Virginia)” in the search bar and zoom in to find the general area. On this
part of the globe, can you find some of the many towns that have Native American names, as
well as some English names given by the first colonial settlers in the Americas? Next, look up
“Carnegie, Oklahoma” for the location of part of the Kiowa Nation. The Mohawk Nation lives
on reserves across Canada, reclaimed land in New York and in off-reserve communities. To find
them search in Canada for “Oshweken” where the Six Nations Reserve along the Grand River is
located; search “St. Regis” to find Akwesasne, “Tyendinaga” Mohawk Territory, and
“Kahnawake” (zoom out to see how close it is to Montreal). The places you looked for on the 3D
map are where people from these culture groups live today. Most of them were displaced and
forcefully relocated from other areas across Turtle Island. We will also visit several
contemporary Indigenous artists from other Nations including Alaska Native Pamyua,
Muscogee, Mohican, and Navajo.
Copyright © 2020 by Tribal Nations Maps. Reprinted by permission.
Background Information
Today, there are approximately 574 federally recognized Indian Nations in the United States. As
compared to 1492, when there were approximately 60 million Natives, there are now
approximately 5 million. Indigenous groups and people in North America may be referred to as
tribes, nations, Native Americans, North American Indians, Indians, First Nations, Bands,
Pueblos, Alaska and Hawaiian Natives, communities and native villages. Indigenous peoples
around the world share a history of decolonization and re-acculturation that may create a sense of
unity, but each nation is individual in its language, dress, governing system, food, arts,
worldview and all aspects of its culture. There are some commonalities, such as connection to
the land, spirituality connected to all of creation, commitment to future generations and in many
cases a system of clans that are determined by family lineage in which each clan has their own
roles and responsibilities. As noted in our global and map search, there is an Indigenous
“international” community that shares values of indigeneity in which most communities are
fighting to retain and regain their cultures and lands. Many have been successful as they thrive
with both tradition and innovation.
Leaving Baggage Behind
© Dawn Avery
There are many misconceptions about Native American peoples. The first is that Indians are in
the past and are no longer a living people. The second is what we mentioned early on in the text,
that Indigenous people are still often viewed as lower than, or to use an original term by colonial
settlers, “savages,” while others believe the opposite, seeing Indians as exotic and magically
spiritual. These views do not portray the vast cultures and individuality of Native people across
Turtle Island and around the world.
“6 Misconceptions About Native American People”
You may have heard about the controversies around sports mascots, especially the United States
national football team. If you’re interested, look up the definition of what the national football
team was called. The fight to change the name went on for many years and it is gratifying that it
has finally been in the process of being changed in 2020. The following video contains some
brief ideas by Indians who share about why sports mascots are offensive:
“Native Americans Review “Indian” Sports Mascots”
© Prachaya Roekdeethaweesab/Shutterstock.com
Native Americans are educators, lawyers, artists, doctors, athletes, military officers and awardwinning leaders. They have always been innovators and inventors. Did you know that the
Iroquois invented the lacrosse game and the first baby bottle? The Inuit invented the kayak. Each
tribe created their own medicines, tools, hunting equipment and fashion. There have been 4
Native Americans in congress, including two women Deb Haaland of the Pueblo of Laguna in
New Mexico and Sharice Davids of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
© Romie Miller/Shutterstock.com
© Sandeep.Mishra/Shutterstock.com
Tour the Sites
© Kendall Hunt Publishing Company
Land Acknowledgement
Indigenous protocol and awareness calls for the acknowledgement of land from the place on
which you are standing. In other words, I am now writing in what is currently Virginia,
originally called Tsenacommacan, home of the Powhatan Confederacy and Piscataway
Chiefdom. There are many nations who are part of the larger confederacy and chiefdom that
lived and live in this DMV (Washington, D.C./ Maryland/ Virginia) area. As part of a movement
to decolonize and acknowledge the original peoples upon whose land I am standing, I would be
remiss if I did not start by honoring this ancestral land, recognizing and respecting the
relationship that exists between these tribes and their stolen territories, and acknowledging the
elders of whom genocide and forced removal took them and whose ancestral lands remain.
I will proceed with a land acknowledgment to the Powhatan Confederacy who lived in
Tsenacommacan (Virginia) for over 12,000 years and was originally comprised of over 30 tribes.
Most of the Powhatan tribes were pushed off their lands and assimilated. Today there are eight
Powhatan Indian-descended tribes recognized by the State of Virginia from which there are
about 3400 living tribal members. The Piscataway Chiefdom Nation inhabits traditional
homelands in Washington, D.C. and Maryland which was home to about forty tribes. Its people
still live throughout Maryland. Both Nations speak English today as their original language has
largely been lost. However, many efforts are currently being made to reconstruct them and
members are dedicated to the preservation of their cultures. Now for a little music!
Land acknowledgment:
I acknowledge that the DMV was an historic center of trade and cultural exchange between
several tribal nations. For generations, the Piscataway and Powhatan Peoples have resided in this
region and served as stewards of the local land and waterways. Those who remain continue to
thrive in the region and still honor and celebrate their culture and relationship with the land.
Learn a little more about the Powhatan and scroll through for live music!
“The Powhatan People: Confederacy & Culture – Pocahantas’ People”
Different from an acknowledgement, listen to how the Piscataway deliver a welcome and music
to visitors on their original homelands at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“Indigenous Peoples March – Welcome by the Piscataway People to their Lands”
© Bill Perry/Shutterstock.com
DESTINATION 1: Intertribal Pow Wows
Pow Wows are Native American social events where many tribes get together to dance, sing, eat
and sell their artistry and goods. Travelling from all over the country, often on what is called the
Pow Wow circuit, dancers and singers compete in contests that are open to the public. The
history of the pow wow has many possible origins from War dance societies of the Southern
Plains Indians, and in or as a response to the banning of Indian culture by the government
who only allowed tribes to get together for public and tourist events. Pow Wows range from
enormous events such as the Gathering of Nations, to small college festivities, as well as private
ceremonial Pow Wows. It is generally believed that the word Pow Wow is from the Algonquian
Indian language, several possible meanings, including the gathering of native people, a curing
ritual and an Indian medicine man. They are relatively new by Indian standards, beginning in the
1800’s. A Pow Wow day begins with songs to accompany the grand entry of tribal leaders,
organizers, veterans, elders, dancers, singers and other participants who parade into a large arena.
Next, everyone is asked to stand as flag carriers enter with the U.S. Flag, Tribal Flags, the POW
Flag and Eagle Staffs for each of the Nations that are present. All veterans non-native and native
are honored with a special flag song and dance. Prayers are said, acknowledgements given and
the Master of Ceremonies is introduced. Throughout the day, he announces and explains the
dances and songs and introduces the various, talented groups that come to participate. Around
the arena are food stands, jewelry vendors, Indian medicines, clothing and lots of great Indian
made items for purchase. People see old friends, socialize, dance, watch and listen.
Pow Wow Music
The drum group, called the drum, is central to the music and typically consists of several men
around a large 2-3 feet wide hand-made from stretched buckskin that is lightly tanned. The men
sing while striking strong beats with mallets made of wood and leather. The drum is treated with
great respect and has its own set of rules. For example, in some areas, it can never be left
alone and must be wrapped in a ritual manner when traveling. It may be blessed with tobacco
and treated with bear fat grease. The men often use the most powerful part of their voice, called
falsetto (highest range) to sing strongly, like warriors, while the women may stand behind the
drummers singing the chorus or harmonies as they dance with gentle foot stomps.
The song structure consists of four pushups (chorus and verse sung four times). In each chorus
the melody is treated as a call and response, in which a lead singer introduces it and another
singer then joins in with slight variations before the end of the leader’s first line. They are then
joined by all the singers for the rest of the pushup. Three hard beats mark the end of the chorus
and beginning of the verse. The dancers will follow the music by changing their movement with
different sections. An increase in tempo and volume on the last five beats marks the end of the
final verse. The dancing stops on the final beat and dancers are disqualified if they do not stop
exactly with that beat! Sometimes, the drum group adds a short chorus to finish the song. There
are many Pow Wow dance styles, each with their own songs: straight, fancy, shawl, jingle, cloth,
buckskin, gourd, traditional dances and partner dances. Everyone can join in for an Intertribal
“2017 Gathering of Nations PowWow – Drums intro”
“Pow-wow dancing, styles and cultures”
DESTINATION 2: Kiowa Gourd Dance,
© Moab Republic/Shutterstock.com
Nearly 300,000 Native Americans and 39 federally recognized tribes live in the state of
Oklahoma, more than any other area in the United States. There are many Native cultural
performances, centers, communities and art. The annual Red Earth Native American Cultural
Festival attracts visitors from around the world. With dance, storytelling and other cultural
events, the Red Earth art market and competition offers art from talented and award-winning
Native Artists. Oklahoma Indians survived many setbacks and encroachments by white settlers
persevering through a “collective identity,” keeping traditions and communities alive. Each
summer and winter between 1832 -1939, Kiowa artists would create a drawing that recorded the
events of the previous six months. Originally sketched on animal skins and later on ledger paper,
these works of art hold important historical and artistic information. Songs and dances orally
transmitted from generation to generation also hold important historical and spiritual
The gourd dance is a traditional dance of the Tdiepeigah (Tai-pe-go), one of the many Kiowa
warrior societies, that was formed in 1850. This name generally translates to “red berry” and
refers to a battle fought with the Comanches in a field filled with red berries. Another variation
of the word Tdiepeigah is “Tia Piah” meaning “ready to go, ready to die.” Today, the Tia Piah
society of the Kiowa tribe dances at pow wows throughout Oklahoma. During Kiowa pow wows,
the drummers are usually seated in the center of the arena, with members of the Gourd Clan
forming a circle to sit around them. They join in by singing during the chorus and shaking their
rattles. Dancers dance in an outer circle. Since the focus of the dance is on the message that the
drummers are singing, there is very little movement in traditional gourd dancing. Although the
dance can mean different things to different people, many see it as an important aspect of
generational continuity as family lineages sustain their clan. New songs are written for special
occasions, usually to honor a current warrior (veteran) who is a member of a gourd society.
Gourd drumming takes place at Native American pow wows and is sacred to the Kiowa because
it contains ceremonial song and dance. By the 1930’s, the U.S. government banned the
ceremonies and dances of many tribal groups. Kiowa elders who had remembered the old songs
and traditions came together to reorganize the Gourd society and in 1957, the gourd dance was
revived. Today, the Gourd Clan whose 300 members keep it alive, includes N. Scott Momaday, a
Pulitzer prize author, as well as doctors, lawyers and civil servants.
When the drummers play gourd songs, they will often strike the drum strongly, creating a steady
beat, with abrupt changes in tempo. During gourd dances, the dancers may hold a gourd rattle
with one hand and a fan of eagle feathers in the other. Traditionally, the rattle is a small gourd
filled with beans or seeds that has a wooden rod going through it. Many rattles are now made of
metal. Due to its sacred nature, the rattle is often handcrafted with beadwork and horsehair. The
drum for this dance is the same as the pow wow drum.
The dancers proudly shake their gourd rattles and stomp their heels on the ground in time with
the drumbeats. The Gourd Dance consists of alternate bobbing up and down as they move toward
the center of the dance arena in time with the drum. Towards the middle of the song, two loud
drumbeats are struck, immediately followed by softer drumbeats during which time the dancers
take a few steps inward without shaking their rattles. Each song is sung four times and ends with
rapid drumbeats after which they howl, emulating the red wolf who is believed to have given
them the dance. As you will notice in the following video, when the men howl, they raise their
shakers high in the air to complete the song. The dancers then remain in place or walk back to
their seats to begin dancing the next song.
This video below features the Cozad singers, a Kiowa Gourd drumming group from Anadarko,
Oklahoma. Formed by Leonard Cozad, Sr. in the 1930’s, the group consists of his sons,
grandsons and several other family members. They performed on the 2001 GRAMMY winning
album Gathering of Nations Pow Wow and won Best Historical Recording in the 2005 Native
American Music Awards. The group performed at the inaugural National Museum for the
American Indian Pow Wow in 2002. Listen to the form of the song, how the different timbres
contribute to the passion of their message and watch the participants who are seated around the
drum group, as well as those dancing around them.
“Gourd Dance Cozad 1 Classic Best 2010 Red Earth”
DESTINATION 3: Haudenosaunee Smoke
© Reimar/Shutterstock.com
Introducing My Mohawk Heritage
She:kon, Ierihó:kwats kiken Onkwehón:we – Longhouse. (Hello, my Longhouse, Indian name is
Ierihó:kwats. The name means she digs deep into her roots to learn). I am of Kanienké:ha
Mohawk descent and wear the turtle clan around my neck. I have Mohawk blood from my
father’s side and have lost the matriarchal lineage. I want to emphasize that I do not represent the
Mohawk culture, nor any culture group that we have visited. My goal has been to be of service as
I introduce a wide array of cultures and their soundscapes. Nia:wen Kowa (Thank you very
much) to those who have taught me and from whom I continue to learn.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy consists of six nations: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga,
Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora. Haudenosaunee means People of the Longhouse that was the
traditional housing structure. They are now are used to hold ceremonies and community events.
The governing council of clan mothers and a Great Council of peace chiefs, along with the
people, still hold confederacy and town meetings in longhouses. The confederacy is united by the
Great Law of Peace (Kaianere’ko:wa), which is considered both a political constitution and a
code for Haudenosaunee society. With their expertise in living the Great Law of Peace, the
Haudenosaunee were important advisers to the founding fathers in the creation of the United
States constitution and a true democracy. In Haudenosaunee matriarchal society, the women are
responsible for voting in the chiefs and other important people and issues. Due to their
experience with voting, the Seneca women helped form the suffrage movement for colonial
women to gain voting rights in the United States.
© Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com
Social dances of the Haudenosaunee are songs with dances that are usually enjoyed outside the
Longhouse, although they may also be part of ceremonial events. A social dance may be planned
for a Friday night in the longhouse, a pow wow or a cultural event. The Smoke Dance is a
relatively contemporary social dance that started in the 1980’s or 90’s and has since become part
of pow wow competitions. There are several possible origins as to why the dance was created: to
clear the smoke from the Longhouse, the influence of fast, non-Native dances, or as a modern
version of traditional War Dances that could be used for entertainment.
The dances are usually accompanied by a water drum and either a solo singer or a group of
singers. There are approximately 20 songs, both slow and fast and new songs are always being
created. The slow songs are associated with the War Dances and are only danced by men and the
fast songs, danced by both men and women, may be based on many types of traditional songs
including fish and rabbit songs. Dancers show off quick steps and body movements to go with
the quick beat of the drum. They match the drum when it creates a brief pause in the music and
add their own flair and versatility to catch the audience’s interest. In order to catch their breath,
dancers are never asked to do more than four dances.
The men wear traditional Haudenosaunee outfits with leather moccasins, leggings, ribbon shirts
and traditional headdresses (Gustowah) that are made of porcupine quills and feathers.
These denote which nation they represent. Women wear cotton dresses with ribbons, a skirt with
matching leggings and a tiara-like headdress. The dance exemplifies how traditional elements
have been brought into a new type of dance.
In the following video selections, note the melodic phrasing, steady beat on the drum and the
impressively fast foot work of the dancers. The first video was taken at an Indian Festival, while
the second was part of a competition at the Six Nations Pow Wow in Ontario.
“Men’s Smoke Dance Solos”
“Women’s Smoke Dance @ Six Nations Pow Wow 2008”
DESTINATION 4: Native Classical
I have had the honor and the pleasure of working with many North American Indian
contemporary classical composers. This led me to research how Indigenous concepts of
traditional and modern can be applied to the work of Native Americans who are composing solo,
chamber and orchestral works. Thanks to funding from the First Nations Composers Initiative
supported by the Ford Foundation’s Indigenous Knowledge, Expressive Culture grant program of
the American Composers Forum, I was able to commission and perform original works by
Native American composers and develop the North American Indian Cello Project. These works
became the foundation of my PhD dissertation where I employed a Kanienké:ha (Mohawk)
concept of now that includes the now of the past, the now of the present and the now of the
future. The word now, Non:wa, was used as a metaphorical concept to show how traditional and
contemporary are not binary opposites, but rather inform each other, overlap with each other and
also exist in the present. As I gathered research and wrote, I employed Indigenous modalities and
treated every aspect of my dissertation as ceremony. For example, I recited the Haudenosaunee
Thanksgiving Address and burned tobacco every morning before I wrote, consulted with elders,
used Native language, metaphor, soundscapes and symbolism in presenting my research and
employed Indigenous theory, interviews and worldviews.
New compositions were commissioned from Navajo Dine, Navajo Ute, Kichespirini, Echo
Tsalagi, Quapaw, Luiseño/Maidu, Choctaw and Mohican composers. Each composition is
individually unique and is scored for solo cello, or cello with rattles and voice. All of them ask
for extended cello techniques developed primarily in the 20th century. Some are excitingly avantgarde, while others are rich with western harmony.
© Brent Michael Davids
Brent Michael Davids, composer
Brent Michael Davids (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation) is one of the most
celebrated Native American Composers today. He has written numerous works for orchestra,
chorus, concert band, chamber ensembles, dance and film. Davids is an American Indian music
specialist, educator and consultant. He co-founded the Native American Composer Apprentice
Project, developed to nurture future generations of Native composers. As a performer of
Indigenous instruments and styles, he also designed new instruments, including crystal flutes.
Davids holds two music composition degrees (Northern Illinois University/ University of
Arizona) and trained at the Sundance Institute. He has won many awards including those from
the National Endowment for the Arts, Joffrey Ballet, Park City Film Music Festival, Emmy
Award, National Symphony Orchestra and the Bush Foundation.
“Cello Chili” Brent Michael Davids (Stockbridge Mohican)
“Davids’ “Cello Chili” is written for cello and voice to be performed almost simultaneously by
the same person. What makes this piece especially interesting and amusing is the fact that the
lyrics are taken from a fictitious recipe that dictated the rhythms he wrote. He then cut and paste
the rhythms to create a shifting emphases of juxtaposed rhythms. Based on language, the text is
not only about a “distinctly American stew made of green chiles and pieces of cello,” but
employs “two quotes from famed Cherokee humorist Will Rogers” who referred to chili as a
“bowl of blessedness” and “advised that one should “always drink upstream from the herd””
(Davids, Cello Chili Score). The piece was commissioned, recorded and performed as part of the
North American Indian Cello Project.
“Cello Chili (North American Indian Cello Project – Dawn Avery)”
Brent, you have had such an important influence on me as well as composers from around the
world. We are delighted that you had a little bit of time to talk to us during the concert
intermission. I just have a few questions.
Can you share how you got into music?
I credit my mother for getting me interested. She was musical, from her parents and
grandparents, and she wanted to inspire me to try it out. She got me into piano lessons at age 8,
and I did that a few years but gave it up for trombone in grade school. Although I didn’t keep
interest in piano, that experience did teach me “the notes,” and my literacy in written music is a
major centerpiece of my career now. I started composing in my junior year of high school and
have been composing ever since. Music literacy is a gift my mother gave me and one I treasure!
What makes your music traditional and contemporary?
That’s a tricky question to answer simply. There’s no word for “music” in most Native
languages because the concept within indigenous life is more expansive than a western
definition. Music-ing is how Native American regard the philosophy, form, function, history and
practice of bringing life in that way: song-ing. It’s always a verb. If I create something akin to
the indigenous process, I’d consider that process ‘traditional,’ rather than simply applying bits of
known melodies to a contemporary work, or by harmonizing a familiar indigenous song in a new
way. The process is more important to me than the outcome, in order words. Using indigenous
cultural relevance as an ‘artistic standard’ is far better than any western music theory for
determining genuine value of the process. Music is a static leftover. Song-ing is bringing life.
What messages are important for you to express through your music?
I believe we must champion a respectful cultural process as an artistic standard, and in doing so
achieve crucial cross-cultural understandings and intercultural relations with each other. With an
artistic standard of cultural respect comes a deeper historical context for approaching the quality
of music. We must engage in genuine relationships that do not diminish or erase cultural realities
in favor of some aesthetic of cultural neutrality. Where are the relationships in our process? What
communities are involved? What lives beyond the Western musical hegemony? I am determined
to answer these and other questions in my artistic process. As a matter of cultural principle,
whenever possible, my works include cooperation between indigenous and non-indigenous
performers. I strongly believe that when we collaborate and experiment in song, we are
discovering life benefits, not simply musical ones. Our interactions as composers, performers,
audiences, students and teachers—Indian and non-Indian alike—constitute important relational
skills. If we can excite creativity and cooperation in each other, we have accomplished a
magnificent thing!
Why is music important to you?
Music-ing, song-ing, is encouraging and creating life and vital to me. If I could not do music for
some reason, I would choose to do something very much like it, an artist of some type, perhaps
in the visual arts, who knows. All the arts share something in common, giving voice. Music is
my best voice, but if I lost that I’d find another. We enact life, nurture it, create it and it creates
and nurtures us too. It’s a mutual process of give and take, barter and exchange and it requires
Any new projects coming up or final words for us?
Yes, I’m working on a long-term project “Requiem For America”. A 90-minute interactive,
interdisciplinary performance work, “Requiem for America” places indigenous voices front and
center, embodied by the creative team, the on-stage performers and the mission of outreach and
community-building that is central to each performance. I am hopeful “Requiem” will create a
powerful concert experience blending Native American music, opera soloists, choral and
orchestral music, choreography and video production. What makes the project unique is the
recruitment of Native American singers, from local tribes and individuals, to perform center
stage. Indigenous singers embody the interaction between native and non-native musicians and
communities that is at the heart of this project.
Subtitled “Singing for the Invisible People,” the subject matter of Requiem for America is
nothing less than the genocidal founding of the United States. As demonstrated by persistent,
dehumanizing stereotypes and continuing arguments over cultural appropriation, America’s
assault on Native American cultures continues to this day. Requiem aims to shine a light on
historic injustices and, at the same time, to model and create solutions in the present by building
collaborative relationships with indigenous artists in all 50 states.
Well, thank you so much Brent. Good luck with your project. It’s just beautiful.
“Powwow Symphony Promo”
This piece is introduced by Brent Michael Davids himself!
Written for Western orchestra, Pow Wow sounds, dancers and storytellers!
DESTINATION 5: Native Musical Theatre
Native American staged theatre productions, many with music, have been around since the
1800’s, for entertainment and education. The Cherokee drama about the Trail of Tears, “Unto
These Hills”, started in the 1950’s and is the longest running show in the United States.
Spiderwoman Theatre, dedicated to productions, education and training in New York City, is the
longest running theatre group of Indigenous women, founded by three Kuna/Rappahannock
sisters in 1976. Ajijaak on Turtle Island, produced by Heather Henson of the Jim Henson puppet
legacy, was written and directed by Ty Defoe (Oneida/Ojibwe), with music by Dawn Avery
(Mohawk descent) and Larry Mitchell, and original drum music by Kevin Tarrant (Hopi/HoChunk), has a mostly Indigenous cast of singers, dancers, actors and puppeteers. Multi-media
designer, Kate Freer created video animation that was projected onto enormous screens in the
shape of drum-heads. Her video design for the “Ajijaak Theme” is below, with lyrics by Ty
Defoe and Dawn Avery, music and vocals by Dawn Avery, produced by Larry Mitchell. Note
the story that she tells with her stunning animation.
“Ajijaak Theme”
DESTINATION 6: Native Reggae
Joy Harjo (Muscogee/Cree) is not only a three times United States Poet Laureate, but an awardwinning musician. Listen carefully to the traditional sounds in the opening, the reggae backbeat
of her band Poetic Justice, jazz saxophone solos and the powerful words referring to Indian and
Settler history.
A Postcolonial Tale
DESTINATION 7: Native Hip-Hop
War Party is Cree band from Alberta, Canada that combines rap rhythms with Indigenous themes
and stories.
“War Party – Feelin’ Reserved” Listen to all of the message!
DESTINATION 8: Tribal Funk/ Native Soul
The Inuit Band Pamyua (Inuit, Alaska Native) reinterprets traditional melodies and adds
contemporary vocalization and instrumentation. Their multi-media performances are theatrical
musical events with dance, masks, stories, Inuit and western instrumentation.
Learn more about the band in the first video from their website.
DESTINATION 9: A Tribe Called Red
A Tribe Called Red (ATCR) is a collective with aboriginal producers and DJs (Cayuga/ Ojibwe/
Mohawk/ Nipissing First Nation) who blend First Nations chants and drum with electronic hip
hop, dubstep and edgy electronic music production. The group’s name is in honor of the hip-hop
band, A Tribe Called Quest, whose songs were about African American social issues. Today, the
duo, 2oolman and Bear Witness, tour with sold out performances around the world. ATCR is
dedicated to promoting a message of inclusivity and decolonization. They have received
countless awards, including those from Juno, Canadian Independent Music Awards, iHeartRadio
Much Music Video Awards, and several Juno awards (Canada’s GRAMMIES).
Their message is particularly important:
“As Indigenous people, we need to define our identity on our own terms. While we promote
inclusivity, empathy and acceptance amongst all races and genders, we are defining our own
Indigenous identity by promoting social justice and supporting those fighting for decolonization
and humanity.” www.atribecalledred.com
“A Tribe Called Red Ft. Black Bear – Stadium Pow Wow (Official Video)”
Dinner and Conversation
Since our journey has been through many nations, it would be quite a menu if we were to offer
food from every tribe. Here are a few staples that are shared by many tribes on Turtle Island.
From corn to cornmeal © Svetlana Feofanova/Shutterstock.com
Indian Frybread © Terry Thomas/Shutterstock.com
Gourds © starryvoyage/Shutterstock.com
Wild Rice © D. Pimborough/Shutterstock.com
Bison © ARSTI/Shutterstock.com
1. What are some of the traditions that are still practiced by some North American Indian tribes
today and why is it important to keep them alive?
2. In what ways is Native American music traditional and contemporary? How can the concept of
non:wa be applied?
3. Choose 4 of the music videos that you watched and explain how their message is specifically
Indigenous. How might this message be useful for all people?
4. What is something you learned from this travel tour that you never knew before? Are there any
stereotypes or misconceptions that came up? Have they been dispelled?
5. What tribal nation lived or lives where you are now? What are they known for? Write a short
land acknowledgment.

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