Navajo Singer: The Music of Ed Lee Natay
(Canyon, 1996)

Ed Lee Natay was the first recording artist to be produced by Canyon Records in 1951. The record company was actually organized for the purpose of releasing Natay's music. This collection includes a bonus album, Memories of Navajoland. The songs are taken from the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo, Kiowa and Tewa nations.

The CD cover, accordion-folded with several pages, provides the biography of Natay, who died of a heart attack in 1967. It also provides details about each song, such as when they were sung and how they were composed. Their original album titles are also given in these sections. This is extremely interesting reading. For example, you will learn that certain rhythms mark the origins of songs as Mescalero Apache. (You will have to get the album cover to learn which rhythms, since I cannot include spoilers.) Learning about the cultural history of the songs is almost as good as listening to them.

My favorite of these songs and tunes has to be "Six Sway Songs" (a.k.a. "Riding in the Morning"). These songs were in a group or class of songs that were called "yik' aash sin," or "high pitched songs." Because of their steady rhythm, they were a favorite for singing while riding a horse. In this set of songs, there are horse sounds in the background, hoof beats and nickering. The hoof-beat rhythms and the rhythm of the song complement each other to produce a relaxing effect.

The rhythm changes in the "Hopi Harvest Dance" are spectacular. The rattles in the "Sacred Mask Dance" make you want to get into the dance mode. You cannot sit still while listening to this rhythm. Natay has a beautiful voice that reaches across the octaves with ease. He can rip from a low note to the highest with ease and no loss of tone or quality. His vocabals and syllables are clearly enunciated, crisp and distinct.

Anyone with an interest in traditional Native American music should get this CD. It is a magnificent addition to any music collection and will always be a classic, as well as a preservation piece.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 28 June 2003

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