by J Raleigh Jones
Cowboys and Indians: Americana Music
It was over a decade ago I discovered the Choctaw Indian Fair near Philadelphia MS when I was working in the area. It was there that I first experienced the blend of modern and Native American Music with a band named “Medicine Dream” from Alaska. The band had several members with electric instruments, traditional instruments and a variety of drums.
The songs they sang were all original and very much about the Indian way of life. It was very entertaining. Then suddenly the stage was filled with high energy dancers with the most colorful, unique and awesome costumes imaginable. The dances consisted of moves and routines I had never seen before. There was a noticeable big gasp from the audience when the dancers appeared. Some of the moves reminded me of birds and nature. So to this day, I have remembered this as one of the best performances I have ever seen.
Fast forward to September 24th and 25th 2021. My videographer friend, John Townley, and I chose to film the Pow Wow at the Wilson County Fair Grounds in Lebanon, TN. I have been to smaller Pow Wows before but they were just one local tribe. This was much different. Four tribes were present including the Aztec Dancers.
Aztecs are known for their dancing skills and awesome costumes, but other tribes also had unique colorful costumes. There was a series of dance contests for various ages, male, female. Two sets of 4 drummers took turns beating the drum rhythms for the songs. At first I didn't understand that they were performing songs. There was chanting and beating of the drums with intensity inspiring the dancers. It was a definite reminder of my first Native American Concert at Philadelphia, MS.
I do not know the name of the announcer at the Pow Wow, but he worked hard all day long introducing and describing the events and keeping the energy level up. He also would make comments from time to time. One comment he made which I will never forget was. “They tried to kill us all, but we have survived”. That statement was so powerful. I was witnessing a culture kept alive all of these years and celebrated by those who passed their stories and lifestyle on through the generations. They are rightfully proud of who they are. I developed more awareness and even higher respect for them. Their history and culture is that also of America.
You may be asking yourself how this all ties together with the title of this article. The Americana music genre is very broad because it is roots music, founded in the early cowboy songs, blues, folk, bluegrass and other unlabeled types of music. The Native American music is definitely a roots music surviving to this day.
The Native Americans have their own music creation, distribution, music videos, tours and talent contests like the rest of the industry. I have no idea how expensive their dance costumes are but I am sure they are expensive. With the travel expenses they incur, it is quite a financial commitment for them to keep ths great culture alive and I applaud them for doing it. So as I turned this experience over in my mind, I thought about what it took for these Americans to come here to Nashville with their music.
For them they have come to Nashville The Hardest Way.