In recent years there’s been growing interest in the spiritual musical traditions of the American Indians of the Southwest. Peyote songs are used in sacred ceremonies carried out by members of the Native American Church. Four recent CD releases focus on the music used in these rituals, which are known as harmonized peyote songs.
Blessings (Canyon Records, 2008) features three Native singers, Jeff McClellan (Sac/Fox), Kyle Robedeaux (Otoe/Seminole) and Brian Stoner (Ponca/Cherokee). On Blessings, the three musicians perform trance-like healing Peyote songs from the Southern Plains of Oklahoma. The singers are accompanied by water drums and gourd shakers.
Gerald Primeaux, Sr. (Yankton Dakota) is one of the most reputable singers in the Native American Church. On his latest recording, Into the Future (2008), he also uses gourds and water drum on his mesmerizing music. Gerald’s previous CD, Voice of a Dakota, CD received the 2007 NAMMY (Native American Music Award) for Best Native American Church Recording.
On Songs of the Sacred Circle, Navajo songwriter Louie Gonnie returns to his musical roots, with a collection of ceremonial peyote songs. He is accompanied by Branson German on drums and vocals. Gonnie’s previous recordings include Sacred Mountains (winner at the 2005 Indian Summer Music Awards for Best Traditional Vocal Album) and Elements.
Another Dine (Navajo) artist, Kevin Yazzie, is regarded as one of the finest young perfumers of peyote songs. His new CD is titled Faith. Yazzie uses multi-layered vocal harmonies in his songs, which focus on faith, healing and prayer.
According to Canyon Records (which specializes in Native American music), the Native American Church, or Peyote Church, has its origins in pre-Columbian Mexico. The peyote cactus (Aztec “peyoti”) grows in north central Mexico and Texas Since the mid-19 century an intertribal religion, philosophy and ritual has developed around “Father Peyote” among many Native Americans in the U.S.
The peyote ceremony includes long prayers, exhortations on right living by Church leaders and quiet meditative songs in sets of four. accompanied by a special gourd rattle and water drum. Peyote meetings resemble other Native American ceremonies in their nature, imagery and cosmic symbolism of fire, water, earth and sky (the body of the drum is the earth and the diaphragm, the sky).
Buy the CDs: