Indian Songs Of The Southwest

Gems For Collectors

Like all primitive peoples, the Southwest Indians have many traditional religious and social ceremonies. Each ceremony has its own special class or type of song. Though they sound strange to us at first, Indian songs are like our more familiar American music: each song has a short melodic phrase built on related tones. The tonal range of the songs is usually from one to three octaves.

Some of the songs have words; others have no words, using instead voice-sounds or vocables, like words but without specific meaning. Once these vocables are set to a melody, they are never changed.

When there is more than one singer, the group generally sings in unison. Singers with clear, resonant voices and good musical intonation make up the choir, which leads the chanting in the ceremonies.

The songs themselves are the property of the tribes, societies, or individuals. The music is intimately bound up with the religious and tribal life of the Indians; the societies are careful never to change a single word or sound of the songs. Being primitive, the Indian songs can show us a historical background which probably applies to all music. Many composers have found that study of the Indian music brings them a wealth of melodic and rhythmic inspiration.

The music of the religious dance ceremonies of the Southwest Indians is usually a chant. The dancers themselves, or a chorus, sing the chants and often accompany themselves by the beat of one or more drums, or by rubbing notched sticks across a hollow gourd. Gourd rattles and sleigh bells are part of the trappings of the dancers. The sound of the rattle and the tinkle of the bells accentuate the rhythms of the dance.

The chants are in fact prayers addressed to the gods, spirits, animals and plants of the Indian world. The voices, the drums, the rattles and the bells make a complex sound which is strong and sharp, and filled with exciting rhythm.

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Native Words



Apache Mountain Spirits Dance Song Apache
Hopi Butterfly Song Hopi
Taos War Dance Song Taos
Navajo Horse Riding Song Navajo
Zuni War Dance Song Zuni
Hopi Plaque Song Hopi
Taos Moonlight Song Taos
Navajo Yebechi Chant Navajo
Apache Sunrise Song Apache
Hopi War Dance Song Hopi
Hopi Lullaby Humming Bird Song Hopi
Taos Hoop Dance Song Taos
Navajo Fire Dance Song Navajo
Hopi Coming Out Song Hopi