Porcupine Singers,
Traditional Lakota Songs
(Canyon, 1998)

Traditional Lakota Songs was recorded live in 1977 at the Ring Thunder Wacipi on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. These are classic songs from the Pine Ridge People (Lakota Sioux) that tell of their past, their culture and their values.

The Porcupine Singers originated in the 1860s, and each generation has carried on the tradition. They were one of the first drum groups to travel extensively across America in the 1970s, and they gained mass recognition and a strong following. In 1992, they were featured on the film Dances With Wolves.

The layering in these songs is tremendous. They utilize every vocal technique to be found in the Northern Plains style. The drum changes rhythm often and alternates between a steady, pulsing rhythm to a complete stop. There is an unusual drum roll at times.

My favorite of the songs is "Sneak-Up Dance." There are constant rhythm changes and unusual drum rolls and stops. This song has a heavier percussion than the others with extremely diverse vocals. I also really like "The Jealous Woman." It proves that we are all human, regardless of our race, and it reflects the way Native American men tend to respectfully regard women as petite and feminine. The chorus goes: "We were having a good time dancing, so my little woman got jealous and took me out of the dance hall."

The Porcupine Singers on this recording are Henry Green Crow, David Clairmont, James Clairmont, Severt Young Bear Sr., Francis Menard, Ronnie Theisz, Calvin Jumping Bull, Philip Wright and George Squirrel Coat.

Be sure to check out the inside of the CD cover. It provides extensive information about the singers and gives the words to several of the songs in Lakota, as well as their translation into English.

This is a magnificent classic of traditional Native Americana. I love it and would recommend it to anybody with an interest in Native American or indigenous music. This CD is of historical value because the members have passed the group name to the next generation and many of the members on this recording have passed away.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 15 November 2003

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