The Tootosis Family,
The Drums of Poundmaker:
Cree Pow-Wow Songs

(Canyon, 1997)

The Drums of Poundmaker is Volume 18 of the Canyon Records Vintage Collection. It is available as a single CD or as part of the set. It was originally recorded in 1976.

There are two types of drums and drumming in these selections. The grass dance songs use a large drum that is placed on the ground. The drummers arrange themselves around it and all strike it simultaneously. The round dance songs use the traditional hand drums of northwest Saskatchewan. (There is one exception: track seven is a round dance song but the large ground drum is used.) Two of the songs have Cree lyrics. The rest have only vocables, in the traditional wailing style of the Northern Plains.

I prefer the vocal effects in the "Honoring Victory Song." It has some of the best vocables of the entire collection. The drumming is slow and soft with a rasping sound, almost as if the drumsticks are being dragged across the edge of the drum. This adds an interesting echo effect to the drumbeat, almost as if the drum is taking a breath. The "Round Dance Song" on tracks 6 and 13 have this same effect at times. These songs are all set to a slower beat than most of the southern-style songs and are ideal for the round dance style, though I prefer the faster beat and livelier dancing.

The inside of the cover gives extensive information about the history of Poundmaker, a historic battlefield and burial ground, and the Poundmaker Reserve, as well as the history of the Tootosis family and the Cree people of the area. The Tootosis group on this CD is John, Wilford, Austin, Gordon, Eric, Arsene and Leonard.

If you like a good round dance, get this CD. It is the ideal music for round dancing and this family displays an extreme amount of talent, likely from the generations of playing and singing together. They have an outstanding ability to harmonize or contrast each other at the precise pitches needed to produce a masterpiece!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 19 July 2003

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