Chief Jimmy Bruneau School Drummers,
Drum Dance Music of the Dogrib
(Canyon, 1998)

Drum Dance Music of the Dogrib is volume 19 in the Canyon Records Vintage Collection. It is available as a single or as part of the set. The music was recorded during the first trip of the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School Drummers to the southwest in the summer of 1993. The Dogrib are a part of the northern Athabascan people of the Northwest Territories of Canada. They are from the village of Rae Edzo.

In these songs, there are no words. Only vocables are used. The drums have a unique construction that makes a distinct sound. It is easy to differentiate their music from all others once you have trained your ear to pick up the subtleties of the drum. The Dogrib use hand drums that are roughly 18 inches in diameter with caribou hide heads. Two caribou-hide thongs are stretched loosely across the head of the drum. When the player strikes the drum, these thongs vibrate, causing a unique buzzing sound.

The drum rhythm in these selections is usually smooth and continuous with no changeups. The singing is extremely spontaneous and contains spontaneous vocables that are often out of synch from the group. Sometimes they are in harmony and sometimes not. Their singing style greatly resembles that of the Navajo, another of the Athabascan peoples.

My favorite of the pieces is the "Fast Partner Dance," a courting song where the couples face each other and move from side to side. This is a wonderful piece for dancing and will certainly inspire your feet to start moving.

The selections on this CD include "Prayer Chant," "Standard Drum Dance," "Partners Drum Dance," "Tea Dance" and "Fast Partner Dance." As you can readily discern, the song titles are generic and only tell the type of song. There are nine standard drum dances and two tea dances.

This is a beautiful collection of classic traditional music by one of the tribes that has been least affected by non-native peoples. This CD should be in the collection of every person with an interest in Native American music or student planning to major in the field. It is a solid preservation of a culture that struggles to continue in the technological world.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 31 May 2003

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