various artists,
Prophecy: A Hearts of Space
Native American Collection

(Hearts of Space, 1999)

The last decade has seen a revival of interest in the Native American culture, and one of the results of this rekindled interest has been a resurgence of Native American music. One of the interesting things about the revitalized Native American music scene is its increasing electronic sound. Musicians such as R. Carlos Nakai and Coyote Oldman have used synthesizers, digital sound samples and other electronic devices to enhance their music. This has its pros and cons.

On the positive side, the music has a lush and luxurious sound, with layers of textures throughout the recordings. Contemporary listeners have a tendency to be more comfortable with sounds that have a steady background sound underneath their music, so these sounds open the music to a wider array of listeners. However, it does tend to lose the feeling of authenticity in some ways, since it no longer sounds like something you might hear at a Native American gathering. Similarly, there is an eerie, mysterious quality added to the sounds of the Native American flute when it is recorded with heavy reverb. It sounds as if you are listening from the confines of a cave. However, it would also be nice to hear the sounds as they would manifest themselves in open fields, in tents and in houses.

That said, one of the great things about this particular Native American collection is the wide array of sounds presented. The highly electronic sound of the Blue Chip Orchestra's music and Jonn Serrie's ethereal synthesized sound is well balanced by Joanne Shenandoah and Lawrence Laughing, who produce a rich tapestry of sound using minimal synthesizer, featuring rich vocal harmonies and a daring duet between ocarina and autoharp.

Native American flute master R. Carlos Nakai displays his awesome talent backed by a wide array of instruments, including electronic sounds on "Wisdom," while leaving the electronics behind for the vibrant "Feather, Stone & Light." Chanting and percussion take center stage on "Awakening" by Primeaux and Mike. This track does include background electronics, but the vocals definitely take the lead on this one. Coyote Oldman creates an amazing symphonic sound from his variety of flutes on his track, "Lunar Symphony."

In short, this is a vibrant mix of Native American sounds, presented by those at the top of their field. This recording would make an excellent introduction to the new Native American music for those wishing to explore new realms, or a nice retrospective for those who are already fans of the genre.

[ by Jo Morrison ]



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