Native American Grammy Nods: The Drumbeat Goes On

By Sandra Hale Schulman
News From Indian Country January 2011

The 2011 Grammy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place Feb. 13 at the Staples Center in downtown L.A., with a televised broadcast on CBS. The nominations for the 53rd annual Grammy Awards were announced on December 1st.

Amid the more than 100 categories covering almost every imaginable field of recording, The Grammy Award for Best Native American Music Album is still in contention. The Grammy Awards was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.”

Following a three-year lobbying effort by the Native American Music Association, the award was first presented to Tom Bee and Douglas Spotted Eagle in 2001 as the producers of the compilation album Gathering of Nations Pow Wow.

Previously, Native American recordings had been placed in the folk, world or New Age music categories. While some Native American artists have criticized the award category for being “too narrowly defined to accommodate the breadth of today’s Indian music,” others take pride in its inclusion. This writer hopes that after almost a decade the category would open up to more contemporary artists like Keith Secola, Martha Redbone and John Trudell, but its definition has remained unchanged.

According to the category description guide for the 52nd Grammy Awards, the award is presented to “vocal or instrumental Native American music albums containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded music,” with the intent to honor recordings of a more “traditional nature.”

Bill Miller and Mary Youngblood share the record for the most wins in this category, with two each. The award has been presented to artists or groups originating from the United States each year to date, though from a variety of different tribes. The group Black Lodge Singers holds the record for the most nominations without a win, with seven.

This years nominees are:

bear-creek.jpgBear Creek –

XI, [Canyon Records]

Having dedicated themselves to the way of the drum for over a decade, Bear Creek continues to sing from the heart with power, conviction and feeling. Combining intricate melodies with crisp singing, this Ojibwe drum group delivers another soon-to-be-classic recording.

Audio CD includes a BONUS DVD featuring video footage recorded during the Pow-Wow and exclusive interviews.

northern-cree.jpgNorthern Cree – Temptations: Cree Round Dance Songs, [Canyon Records]

5-time Grammy® nominee Northern Cree rank among the best drum groups that the Pow-Wow trail has ever seen. They have also helped elevate the status of the Round Dance among the tribes of Native America and beyond. This collection charts the odyssey of romance from the innocence of first love to the temptations of fiery infatuation.

woodnotes1sm.jpgPeter Phippen – Woodnotes Wyld: Historic Flute Sounds From The Dr. Richard W. Payne Collection, [INAFA Productions]

INAFA is pleased to announce a new CD called Woodnotes Wyld: Historic Flute Sounds From the Dr. Richard W. Payne Collection. This is the first CD in the International Native American Flute Association’s Historic Flute Series. This CD is an ethnomusicological field recording of the flutes from Dr. Richard W. Payne’s extensive collection. Performed and recorded in Dr. Payne’s flute room by Peter Phippen in 2002, the music on Woodnotes Wyld is solely improvisational, meant to explore the voice and parameters of select instruments. The intent of this historically and musically significant endeavor is to maintain the integrity of Phippen’s field recording, opting for a true, honest realization of the flute voices rather than trying to bend them to the Western, commercial ear.
World flutist and scholar Peter Phippen was Dr. Payne’s friend and student, kindred spirits fascinated by the flute sounds of the world. Dr. Payne spoke highly of Peter’s spirit, enthusiasm, and talent: “Peter is a real phenomenon! He has shown a real talent with early Native American aerophones.”

Dr. Richard W. Payne (1918-2004) was a physician, pioneer, scholar, collector, and INAFA advisory board member who had a genuine interest in world flutes and cultures. He was a prolific individual who greatly contributed to the resurgence of interest in the Native American flute tradition. His research yielded several books that have truly inspired and educated, such as The Native American Plains Flute, The Hopi Flute Ceremony, and Indigenous Aerophones of the Northwest Coast. Dr Payne’s spirit and joy is still felt within the Native American flute community. His dedication and scholarship are gifts that will endure for generations.

gon.jpg2010 Gathering Of Nations Pow Wow: A Spirit's Dance – (Various Artists), [Gathering Of Nations Records]

Recorded live at the 2010 Gathering of Nations Powwow by Audio Excellence, featuring Northern Drum Champions and Southern Drum Champions.