Navajo

Songs of the Diné © ("the People")


The Navajo, like most Indians, has a song for every occasion of his life. There is music for religious rituals . . . songs when beginning journeys . . . songs for work tasks . . . songs for riding . . . songs for playing games . . . songs for the meeting of friends.

From its extensive library of Indian music, Canyon Records has put together on one long play record, a collection of some of the most representative and requested Navajo songs. From the vast reaches of Navajoland – 16,000,000 acres of high desert plains, mesas and canyons, located in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – come these songs of the Diné (the Navajos' name for themselves, and which means simple men, people).

A growing progressive tribe, the Navajo combines respect for its ancient culture and traditions with a forward-looking development of all its human and natural resources. At the Civic Center Auditoriums in Window Rock and Tuba City modern music concerts, symphonies, and operas are enthusiastically attended. Similarly at the Tribal Fair and in everyday life throughout Navajoland, the traditional Navajo language songs are heard – now often by broadcast.

The songs on this record have been recorded in each case through the cooperation of tribal officials or by arrangement with the individual singers. They were recorded under varying conditions, indoors and out. In some cases arrangements were made to record at an actual dance, festivity or event.

To better preserve the authentic character of the songs or its setting, no attempts have been made to 'doctor up" the original recording, nor to employ electronic 'gimmicks'. As a Yeibechai begins the quiet murmur of the assembled Navajos can be heard; or, in others, the faint movement of the dancers or a singer clearing a throat is left as it happened, so that the listener can feel he actually present.

As time goes on, the list of great native singers and singing groups keeps diminishing. Canyon Records hopes that by recordings such as these to preserve for oncoming generations one aspect of Navajo culture – the Songs of the Diné.

Play song

Name

Performed by

Description

Native Words

Translation

Notes

Round Dance Joe Lee of Lukachuchai with group Following the speech introduction "Everybody sing now, we're going to do the round dance", one of the most famous tribal singers leads his group in a popular Navajo social dance song. The leader carries the song, and the various supporting singers improvise from it. Navajo
The Train To Gallup Mesa Verde Group Singers In this song, used for a social dance, the singer attempts to set up a rendezvous in Gallup, New Mexico between trains. Navajo
I Want To Put My Arms Around Your Neck Mesa Verde Group Singers A love song, used as a squaw dance song. It is partly rhythm sounds, and partly words, with the recurring refrain which gives it the title. Navajo
Sonnie I'm Leaving You Mesa Verde Group Singers Another song for a social dance. Here a man tells a woman he is parting company from her. Navajo
The Old Glory Raising On Iwo Jima Solo: Reg Begay Reg Begay commemorates the heroic deed of an American Indian, Ira Hayes, one of the four US servicemen who raised the American Flag signifying the taking of Iwo Jima during World War II. The popularity which this patriotic song enjoys attests to the patriotism of the Navajo people, whose sons have served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam most courageously. Navajo communications teams made a unique contribution in World War II by transmitting secret information in the Navajo tongue – thus saving the time of coding and decoding, and preventing deciphering by the enemy. Navajo
Let's Hope For Love Solo: Reg Begay Love song for a social dance. One of the more melodic of Indian songs. Navajo
Riding Song 1 Solo: Natay, Navajo Singer The Navajo were famous for their horsemanship, Although horses are being replaced for transportation by the pick-up truck, they will always have a place in Navajoland, and in the hearts of the Navajo. A group of Navajo riders, heading into the wind at full gallop, is a thrilling sight! Natay, the great Navajo singers, caught the excitement in this group of 'songs for riding'. It is regarded as one of his finest recordings. Navajo
Riding Song 2 Solo: Natay, Navajo Singer Navajo
Riding Song 3 Solo: Natay, Navajo Singer Navajo
Riding Song 4 Solo: Natay, Navajo Singer Navajo
Riding Song 5 Solo: Natay, Navajo Singer Navajo
Rhythm Squaw Dance Song Solo: Natay, Navajo Singer Here Natay put rhythm sounds to work for a skip dance Navajo
Do Not Forsake Me Solo: Natay, Navajo Singer A song for a social dance, in the two-step rhythm. The singer tells the girl of his choice that he has come to the dance from a long distance, over bad trails, on horseback. Now that he has gone to this trouble, the girl refuses to dance with him. He pleads: "Now that I am here, do not forsake me. You need me. Dance with me." As an example of the Indian sense of humor, the singer suddenly sees a chance to interpolate an English phrase – popular at the time of the recording – and does so effectively! Navajo
Navajo Hoop Dance Solo: Laughing Boy The popular hoop dance is performed by various tribes at exhibitions and pow-wows. It is a dance to show agile, fast footwork while performing gymnastics with several hoops. This particular song was made famous by Laughing Boy and his dancing daughter, Red Wing. Navajo
Goat Song Solo: Laughing Boy This song is in a social dance rhythm, and is a humorous Navajo song in which the lover tries to persuade his sweetheart to settle down with him, holding out the promise that he'll get her a little goat with a striped face for a pet. Navajo
Grinding Songs Male singers with women corn-grinders Women must work – and it's hard work grinding corn. The male singers try to ease this by singing these merrymaking verses to keep the women in good humor as they labor. These songs were recorded during an actual corn grinding exhibit. The rhythmic grinding of the corn can be heard as the women kneel on the ground before the grinding stones and work. Navajo
Sun Dance Song Tseyia Chee, with singers and basket drum Here Canyon Records has the great privilege of presenting on record Tseyis Chee, an old and greatly revered medicine man, whose voice and wealth of chants brought him a position of renown throughout Navajoland. Accompanied by singers, he chants a ritual song, beating the rhythm with a strong wooden stick on a 'basket drum' (a basket inverted over a hole in the ground, and used in certain sacred rituals). Navajo
Yeibechai Chant Yeibechai Team from Fort Defiance Area The sacred night chant of the Navajo, performed without break from darkness until dawn on the last night of a nine day healing ceremony. The chant is insistent so as not to let the gods rest until they hear the pleas and heal the sick person. Strict ritualistic practiced must be observed. The Yeibechai must never be performed until after the first frost in the Fall; the chanters must be letter perfect as any error will destroy the effectiveness of the chant.

The chant is sung and danced by a team of about twenty, and they are relieved at regular intervals throughout the long night by similar teams, who pick up the chant without a break. No one has matched Edward Curtis' description of the setting in which he viewed this nine day healing ceremony many years ago: "From a distance Indians have been gathering during two previous days, and the hospitality of the patient's family as well as people living in neighboring hogans has been taxed to the utmost. From early morning until dark, the whole plain is dotted with horsemen coming singly or in groups . . ."

And, as the Yeibechai Chant closes the nine day ceremony, he relates: "With the last words, 'dola anzi, dola anzi', the assembled multitude start for their homes, near and far, melting into the gray of the desert morn. By the time the sun breaks above the horizon, the spot which was alive with people a few hours before is wrapped in stillness, not a soul being within range of the eye."
Navajo