Hopi Butterfly Song

Canyon Records
Recorded by Ben Setima on-location on the Hopi Mesa of Hotevilla, Summer of 1967

This is a rare and unique recording-probably the first publicly released recording of an actual Butterfly Dance in progress on a Hopi mesa. Its recording and release was made possible by Ben Setima, a member of Hotevilla, long respected in both the Indian and White cultures who, in his progressive and forward-looking wisdom has brought understanding and enrichment to both.
The Hopi Butterfly Dance-One of the most beautiful and spectacular of the Hopi dances-is a social dance of the summer season. It is sponsored by adults for the youth of the village. Although the young men dance, the Hopi maidens are the chief figures. Only young single girls may take part-as many as are provided with costumes and will learn the intricate dance patterns.
It is a dance which involves much preparation:
The feast, the singers, the arrangements have to be provided by the girls' male relative; the boy who is invited by the girl must return the compliment by making her a beautiful headdress, a tablet-like crown of thin wood with terraced edges, elaborately painted. (The album cover is a photo of such a dance headdress.)
Each year new songs must be composed for the dance, and learned by the singers. The dance variations need to be rehearsed for days. Costumes must be prepared-for girls, black manta dresses with gay silk capes; for the boys, red sashed black velvet outfits with vari-colored ribbons streaming from the shoulders; for all, much beautiful turquoise and silver jewelry.
When all is complete the result is a 'galaxy of beautifully deigned and painted crowns, with all the variety of a kaleidoscope", fine singing and interacted dancing. The girls move with decorum and tiny, moving steps; the boys shake rattles and dance by lifting their knees high in a springing step.
The dance lasts all day with the same participants, but intermissions intersperse the various figures. Friends and guests walk about, greeting and visiting.
The dance goes far back in time, and the variations from generation to generation are minor, although the historian Alexander Stephens recounts 1883 writings that "in former times girls were compelled to disclose to the spectators the names of their true sweethearts, which gave rise to much mirth and jesting". He refers to The Butterfly as the "dance of the maidens", and recounts how many young men from other mesas came to witness it.
The recording begins with the dancers and singers coming from a distance int the dancing area. First we hear the drums, gradually the singing becomes more distinct, and always there is the presence of the joyous guests. Although the material has been edited down to record size, the various songs of 1967 are all included, and enough of the intermission talking, visiting, and background sounds have been left to preserve the flavor of the actual occasion.

The music of the Hopi represents a type of musical style uniquely identified with the American Indian. Unlike most American Indian music, however, the Hopi style offers a more varied, more developed, and more complicated form of music-obviously a reflection of the Hopi culture itself. The Hopi Butterfly Dance presented in this album is characteristic of part of that more complex, elaborated musical style of the Hopi.
Basically, the music of the Hopi, like all American Indian music, is one of seeming simplicity, especially since it is essentially monophonic with very little or no harmonic structure to speak of. However, this single-lined, melodic and strangely beautiful music is highly distinguishable with an abundance of musical detail, not to mention the inseparable ritualistic emotional expression and ceremonial color, not found in any other musical art.
Further, the music is highly organized because of its own unique beauty, but more specifically because it embodies so much that is Hopi-the artistic, religious, and philosophic values of the people themselves.
The music of the Hopi, as expressed through the Butterfly Dance, is basically vocal, group singing being the norm rather than individual exhibitionism. Instruments are confined primarily to bells, rattles, and drums. Unbound to theoretical implications and fixed systems of pitches, this music is allowed to develop the uniqueness that is Indian, and more specifically, Hopi.
As might be expected, just as the music is highly involved (rhythmic complexities, well-constructed melodic patterns, abrupt and significant tempo changes, clearly defined phrase and section structures. etc..) so are the texts more elaborate.
The music lover whose experience has been limited to Western European music will be awed at first by the strangeness of this music. If you are a music lover-listen to this music. Listen to what it has to say. Understand that it is that you don't understand. I submit that the trained musician will find something rewarding in this music. If you are a lover of Indian music–enjoy it.

Irvin Coin, Music Department, Pima College, Tucson, Arizona

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Song 1 Hopi
Song 2 Hopi
Song 3 Hopi
Song 4 Hopi
Song 5 Hopi
Song 6 Hopi