Friday, March 12, 2010

Energy and Serenity

A major portion of the Heard Museum Guild's Indian Fair & Market (Phoenix, AZ) held in early March was the entertainment.

This year’s Fair honored the bands and arts of the Apache peoples. The Yellowbird Apache Dancers were among the featured performers during the Fair.

Two individuals from this dance group performed hoop dances. During their performances, I became an observer rather than a recorder of their dances. Each used four flexible hoops and joined them together in such a way to form wings, baskets, and other shapes during their dances. Regretfully, I do not have photographs of one of the performers, Derrick Suwaima Davis, from the Hopi and Choctaw Nations, who recently won his fifth title as World Champion Hoop Dancer at the 20th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center Dancers performed traditional dances representing all five regions and peoples of Alaska.

But it was the energy of the percussionists from the Living Traditions Dance Troupe that amazed us.

The Master of Ceremonies explained the diverse composition of the troupe, but I was not paying close enough attention to add some information here.

But suffice it to say the Japanese percussionist threw himself into the performance. The expressions on his face reflected the force with which he was hitting the drums.

As the performance was nearing its conclusion, the intensity of the playing increased.

At the conclusion, we believed the performers must have been exhausted.

The serene, melodic presentations of the R. Carlos Nakai Trio presented a marked contrast to the performance of Living Traditions.

We first heard the music of Nakai about nine years ago. We were standing near the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, when we heard the music of "the premier Native American flutist" coming from a nearby gift shop.

Nakai (right) began his interest in music with the trumpet, but his trumpet playing ended when his embouchure was permanently damaged in a car accident. In the early 1980s, he began playing the traditional flute, and a new career was born.

Of special note was his re-telling the story of his getting discovered as a result of setting up a booth at this Fair nearly 30 years and sales of 35 million recordings ago.
My eyes were drawn to the instruments of William Eaton (left, in the photo on the left) and percussionist Will Clipman, who are the other two-thirds of "The Wilde Boys," another name for the trio.

Clipman's careful beating on the gray jug or a box-like drum and the use of other unusual percussion instruments was mesmerizing.
Guitarist/luthier William Eaton (left) made the instrument he played. It seemed to combine a guitar, a middle neck that could be adjusted to sound like a banjo, and a harp.

It was very clear that these three were highly skilled performers, but their skill was most clearly reflected in their abilities to form one "instrument." Every sound was the result of the combined sounds of each, but with one's eyes closed, the collective sounds seemed to be one layered sound.

I have never heard such skillful blending of three musicians' instruments.

We had no knowledge beforehand that the Carlos Nakai trio would be performing at the Fair and indeed felt very fortunate to have heard several selections from their recent "Dancing into Silence" CD--and to have a copy signed by all three.

No comments: