music is life, music is breath, music is us

Archive for August, 2012


John Mayer-“In Repair”

This song by John Mayer describes me in many ways, so it is a very personal song that I am posting here. “In Repair” was actually recorded over the course of a day, and truly signified a progression in Mayer’s songwriting.

Thank You!

Hey hey hey blogging universe!

You guys have just been incredible. I had no idea what to expect when I started this blog two months ago. I knew that I wanted to get my ideas out in this world, but I never expected this kind of overwhelming response. I have had views from pretty much every continent (almost 50 countries!) which has given me the opportunity to speak with people from all different cultures and walks of life. I got nominated for Most Inspirational Blog by which was awesome, namely in the fact that what I feature here on mixolydianblog is considered inspirational (which I find so encouraging). I want to continue the discussion of ideas regarding every aspect of music imaginable. This is just the start, so HANG ON!

One Love,



Enigma-“Return to Innocence”

It should be no secret by now that I advocate for musical blending, music that incorporates all different kinds of styles. A great example of this is this song by the German New Age/Electronic project Enigma. This particular song samples Taiwanese aboriginals (many mistakenly think that particular part is sung by American Indians. This sampling actually brought up issues of intellectual property rights as the singing of the Taiwanese aboriginals was sampled from a field recording, and the vocalists were not initially compensated for it), as well as the drum beat to Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” The song was also used for the 1996 Summer Olympics. I love this song for its grace and its ambient sound.

Passion and Musical Electricity: Nigerian Jùjú Music

The music of the African continent is diverse, a result of the hundreds of ethnic groups as well as the influence of outside cultures (such as Arabic and European). One particular style from the Yoruba people of Nigeria has always stood out to me as soothing and energetic, with each performer feeding into a constant electrical current of musicality. The style I am speaking of is jùjú, a style that has had a hold on me ever since I began ethnomusicological studies.

Jùjú first made its appearance in 1932 in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. The initial ensemble consisted of a leader (which functioned as both singer and banjo player), a shekere (gourd instrument with a bead woven net), and a jùjú.  Early jùjú music was influenced by palm wine guitar music (music of such workers as sailors and truck drivers), with rhythms of asíkò (a dance with drums performed mainly in Christian boys clubs that has roots in Brazilian sámbà) laying the groundwork for all of the rhythmic ideas. The first real star of this early style of jùjú was Tunde King, who followed the rhythmic and melodic ideas highlighted earlier in this paragraph, as well as lyrically drawing from metaphorical language of the Yoruba people (specifically in ideas such as the connection between natural ideas like birds and bright colors and cultural ideas like beginnings and abundance). Such an example of King’s music is the song below (starts at 9:01) which is a very early recording (as evidenced by the mediocre audio quality, which is actually quite common in ethnomusicology field recordings).

Around the 1940’s jùjú began a series of changes that would forever alter the genre. First the introduction was added for the gángan (drum), which is credited to bandleader Akanbi Ege. Next, thanks to advancements in musical technology, amplifiers, microphones, and pickups were added to the instruments used, thus making jùjú an electronic music rather than an acoustic one. Eventually in the time after World War Two other changes were made, namely in instrumentation.  Postwar jùjú bands added the agídìgbo (piano-like lamellophone) and a variety of drums like the àkúbà and ògìdo. Eventually all of these changes evolved into jùjú bands containing up to nine musicians. By the time the 1970’s occurred, jùjú music experienced even further developments thanks to the effect oil had on Nigeria’s economy. The public (though this was uneven wealth distribution) could afford to hire musicians for various events, which was not a difficult demand for many jùjú bands as they had concurrently expanded to over 15 musicians. As jùjú moved into the 1990’s, the bands split into three different groups: singers, percussionists, and guitarists. This is now the current form of jùjú in the modern era.

Arguably the most famous musician of jùjú music is King Sunny Adé. Initially Adé played sámbà drum before branching off into his own band, the Green Spot Ensemble, in 1966 at age 20. King Sunny Adé took great musical influence from Tunde King, also using a nasal vocal timbre, electric guitar and electric bass (this was specifically added in 1970). As the years progressed, Adé developed on his ensemble form, which by 1979 (with the band performing under the name “African Beats”) contained two tenor guitars, one rhythm guitar, Hawaiian guitar, bass guitar, two “talking” drums (Yoruba language is tonal, therefore “talking drums” exist in music, but can also function in a communication context), shekere, àkúbà, drum set, synthesizer, and four singers.  Most count King Sunny Adé as one of the most influential musicians of all time, given the title of “Golden Mercury of Africa, Minister of Enjoyment.” No Nigerian musician has had the international success of Adé, take a listen below and see why.

Music from the Yoruba people has touched all parts of the globe, from the Caribbean, to the United States and beyond. Jùjú music is perfect expression of why this culture from Nigeria and their music has such a hold on people’s hearts, for it is a poetic expression, as well as a layered musical interaction among ancient instruments/ideas, as well as modern-day instruments/practices. I hope this post has given you not only insight into jùjú music, but the desire to seek out recordings of performers of this genre, as well as performers of other Nigerian styles. If this post has done this, I will be completely satisfied.

(Source: “Juju: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music” (University of Chicago Press, 1990) by Christopher A. Waterman)


Seo Taiji-“T’ik T’ak”

Seo Taiji is a supremely talented Korean singer and musician. He is credited with the spread of K-Pop’s (Korean Pop) popularity and is a hero in South Korea. He rocks, plain and simple.

The History and Structure of the Pow-Wow

(Note: My cultural makeup is diverse, and in this post, I wanted to talk about a key component to my Cherokee heritage (or really any Native tribe from the United States), that being the inter-tribal event of the Pow-Wow. As such, I use the term(s) “Indian” or “American Indian” in this post at times simply because, among our people, that is the terminology we use to identify ourselves. Enjoy-Derek)

The Pow-Wow originates historically in mobile medicine shows in the 1820’s which eventually contained American Indian dancers to attract potential customers. Around the 1880’s, Indians themselves began creating these shows, and soon after the term “Pow-Wow” became associated with Native American dancing. There were always dancing gatherings among Natives prior to European contact; however such events were closed to outsiders (i.e. not in the tribe or a part of another tribe). As the years progressed, eventually leading into what is now known as the modern-day Pow-Wow, the events became open to the public to enjoy. It is important to state, however, that the government viewed religious dancing suspiciously until 1933 when John Collier legalized religious dancing. This led to an ultimate shift in the Pow-Wow, as it eventually became less an entertainment show and more about the community (specifically post-World War Two homecoming celebrations were planned for veterans of Native descent). As time progressed, so did the spread of the Pow-Wow events, leading to the present day where Pow-Wows are conducted all over the United States.

When discussing the Pow-Wow, it is important to distinguish between the Northern and Southern practices, as well as understand their origins. The song form of the Northern song style follows the song structure (with “c” meaning cadence and “*” meaning honor beats) __A_c///___B___***c/__***(possible cadence)__B__c__/ (then repeat to A section). The song form in the Southern style is structurally different, as it follows the form __A__c//___B__c__**/*_____B_c____/ (then repeat to A section). Both forms follow what scholars call “incomplete repetition,” which originates in the Heluska War Dance of the Omaha Nation. This leads to the greater point that the Heluska people are where Pow-Wow music and dance originated. What caused the style to spread and become what is now known universally as the Pow-Wow musical form was a visit of delegates from the Dakota people. Upon the Dakota purchasing the rights to the songs, and modifying them with their own language, more tribes eventually purchased the rights and Heluska dance slowly began to spread in popularity among Indians.

Further continuing with the analysis of Northern and Southern song form, it is imperative to speak of the actual vocal styling of the respective forms. In both forms, the pentatonic scale (diatonic scale that deletes the 4th and 7th scale degree) is utilized, as well as vocables and native languages for libretto. Furthermore, the vocal texture of both styles is monophonic (unison) or heterophonic (same melody line with different variations among vocalists). This is where the similarities end however, as the vocal approaches and vocal ranges differ in Northern and Southern styles. In the Northern style, the voice is higher pitched and piercing, specifically sung in chest voice, whereas the Southern style is more relaxed and lower pitched. Another difference between Northern and Southern styles is not only in the vocal approach, but the actual vocal range of the singers. In scientific pitch notation, the Northern vocal range is G3-E5 and the Southern vocal range is E3-A4. The explanation for these ranges exists in the techniques utilized, as logically Northern singers’ higher pitched vocal technique produces a higher vocal range and the Southern singers’ lower pitched vocal technique produces a lower vocal range.

There are numerous forms of songs within the Pow-Wow competitions. Such songs include dances with origins in “old, tribal-specific warrior societies” like Traditional Dances; “Fancy” War Dances which originated in Wild West shows; and intertribal songs such as the Northern Crow Hop and Southern Horse Trot. When looking at the dances, it is essential to understand the reason behind certain movements and the cultural significance they hold. At the simplest level, footwork is an essential component to the song, both for points and for communication of cultural concepts. There are numerous beliefs regarding the reasons for the footwork used in Pow-Wow dances. One view holds that the footwork pays respect to the animals (or “four-leggeds”) who gave Indians the knowledge of how to dance (such a theory makes sense in some respect as the Crow Hop Dance in fact mimics the motion of a Crow). Another view states that the dancing/footwork of Natives in Pow-Wow settings is a type of prayer, specifically endowed on Indians by the Creator. No matter what the belief is regarding the origin of the dance, the conclusion can be made that the dance steps are sacred to the songs of the Pow-Wow. Take for instance the Women’s Traditional Dance, practiced in the Great Lakes, Oklahoma, and Northern Plains Regions. The women who dance never allow their feet to totally leave the ground, a symbolic representation of Native women’s connection to Mother Earth. This most likely explains why proper dancing technique is a major component to high scores in Pow-Wow competitions (if there is over or under stepping in dances there may be disqualification), as dance is an integral component to the culture of American Indians.

The final topic of discussion with regards to the Pow-Wow is how the dance categories relate to the regalia used by the dancers. The regalia used by the dancers is entirely based on the dance type chosen, as well as the personal preference of the dancer in question. Such dance types include (these examples come from Northern Pow-Wows): Traditional Dance, Fancy Dance, Grass Dance, and Jingle Dress Dance. The types of regalia involved in these dances can include porcupine/deer hair roaches, crow bustles, spinners for feathers, rockers for feathers, and dance sticks. No matter what the specific piece of regalia is, it maintains certain significance for the Native dancers who wear it. This significance is most poignantly stated by Ojibwe Dancer George Martin, saying “all these things that we use were given to us by them…our brothers and sisters-our four-legged brothers.” There-in lies the true significance of the regalia worn by Indian dancers, it is a representation of their connection to the Earth and its creatures. This beautiful display of interconnectedness is strongly protected by the Pow-Wow Dancers for their future generations to partake in. As a Cherokee Indian, this display of true connection gives me hope for the future of not only those I share blood with, but every human being.

(Source: “Heartbeat of the People” by Tara Browner)


ClaraC- “Offbeat”

Sometimes, in this serious world, you just need music that makes you smile. ClaraC’s music certainly does that.