Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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THE AMERICAN INDIANS l6§
Woman, don't worry about me; I'm coming back home to eat berries.
I am the crow; watch me.
The bird has come; it makes yellow the sky.
Young man, be brave; you're going to a dangerous place; your chieftain­ship will become famous.
Really it is good to be young, for old age is not far off.
The Ute Indian, while he was still looking around for me, I scalped him alive.
Young man, it is good that you are going to war.
Elsewhere among the North American Indians, however, mean­ingless syllables are not so prevalent, and entire tunes are accom­panied by words; the subjects range from serious thoughts about the gods to lyrical complaints about the weather, to frivolous love songs. But the meaningless syllable songs occupy an important role, analogous perhaps to instrumental music. Thus there are entire bodies of song that use meaningless syllables. The famous night chant of the Navaho, the "yeibetchai," includes a group of songs sung by masked dancers in falsetto with only syllables. Many of the Peyote songs use only meaningless words, but, interestingly enough, they use special patterns such as "yowitsini," "heyowitsi," and "heyowit-sinayo," which can easily be identified as Peyote songs. Some of the Indian texts are long and elaborate; the Navaho songs may enumerate holy people, places, or things in great numbers. More commonly, however, a short sentence or phrase is repeated several times.
Indian music in transition
Considering the small number of Indians and the tremendous im­pact of Western culture on their lives during the past two or three centuries, it would be surprising if their music had remained uninflu­enced by that of the West. There is an interesting difference be­tween North and Latin American cultures in this regard. The Indians of Latin America, who in several countries now make up the bulk of the Spanish-speaking population, have learned the folk music styles of Spain and have also developed styles that are to an ex­tent mixed. Thus it is possible to hear, in the Andes of Peru, tunes in the Hispanic folk music style being played on the panpipe, an aboriginal Indian instrument. In North America—probably mainly







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III