various artists,
Sacred Dance:
Pow-Wows of the
Native American Indians

(ARC, 2003)

Sacred Dance brings together music from the top five pow-wow groups of the Northern Plains. These groups are eagerly sought for performances throughout North America, and often abroad. It is promoted as representing the best of contemporary pow-wow music, though many of us would quickly point out that it only represents the best of the Northern Plains style pow-wow music and is exclusive of other styles.

If you need a solid introduction to pow-wow music, the booklet with this CD will provide you with the basics. Be sure to read it thoroughly before listening to the disc. It will help you to understand even the subtle differences in the styles and types of pow-wow music and to realize what those differences represent.

The groups featured on this CD are Northern Wind (Northern Plains style, Ojibway), Eyabay (Northern Plains style, Ojibway), Earlwin B. Bullhead (traditional, instructional, ceremonial), Young Grey Horse (Northern Plains style, Blackfoot) and Dakota Travels (Northern Plains style, Sioux).

The collection begins with Northern Wind performing "Beautiful Way." They demonstrate most of the techniques that have become associated with Northern Plains style, including yips, wails and layered, almost round-style chanted vocables. The drum beat is regular, deep and fairly slow.

The second number is by the Ontario-based group Eyabay. Their sound is much higher pitched, like the traditional Northern Plains sound. Their drum speed varies.

The third number is a beautiful, meditative piece by Earlwin B. Bullhead with no background music. It is easy to understand why he ranks among the top pow-wow performers today. His voice is so soothing.

The fourth selection has Young Grey Horse doing some high-pitched wailing with a broken tempo and layered, off-cadence yells and whoops. They mix in most of the yips and light vocable chanting that are associated with this style of music, though their primary sound is high wailing.

Dakota Travels adds the highest pitched wailing of all. They sound like one-third of their singers are two octaves above the other two-thirds. The highest pitches vibrate through the other singers and overwhelm them. This makes the whole group seem to be an octave or so higher than the other groups on this CD.

The collection rotates between these groups, offering the listener first one sound and then another. If you have any interest in the Northern Plains style of Native American music, this is a solid purchase. It allows you to compare the different sounds, styles and techniques found within this subset of the Native American genre with a sampling of the best of the best within this field.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 March 2005

Buy it from