Young Bird,
Only the Strong Survive
(Canyon, 2002)

Only The Strong Survive was recorded live during the 13th annual University of Iowa Pow Wow on April 12-14, 2002. Young Bird should be the most-loved band in the Native American scene simply because their members represent such a wide range of native nations. They have a southern chant style (non-wailing) and are producing original works that break barriers and stereotypes.

The first difference you will notice about this group is the prominence of female voices. It is so refreshing to hear the young women taking part, simply because this is a rarity. Most native drumming and chant groups are composed of all-male members, with an occasional female group that has no males. To see a co-ed effort is a real treat.

This CD contains "Big Poppa Pimpin'," "Canyon Records' Song," "Soul Sistas," "Beautiful Girl (Cheyenne Dae Gwin's Song)," "What U Got (Remix)," "Mystical Riviera," "Rollin'," "O Skoo Boogie," "Blue Thunder Chief" and "Doin' It Again YB Style." It is easy to discern from the titles that this is a young group taking traditional drumming and chant songs to a modern street level. They are bringing their heritage forward into the new century with high energy and enthusiasm.

My favorite on this CD is "What U Got." I love the way the drum begins with a roll, stops, begins slow, crescendos from that slow and steady to an almost frantic pace, then stops. This is a most unusual composition. The vocals also change volume and rhythm, seeming to alternate with the drum. This is an exceptional piece of native music and breaks all the molds for chanting and drumming.

"Mystical Riviera" is a beautiful piece that displays the female voices with an almost echo effect. The females are singing alternately with the male part and then in a harmonizing part. It works! It is almost like having the females do a duet with the males in the background, yet the female voices seem to be a distance. It is something that cannot be adequately described. You must hear this one to understand. It is an incredible piece that stands out from traditional native music while carrying on the heritage.

Young Bird is composed of an eclectic mixture of tribes and nations. Curtis Hamilton-Young Bird (Cheyenne/Sauk & Fox) is the lead singer. Danita Cornelison (Osage) and Sunny Rose Yellowmule (Pawnee/Crow) add the femininity to the group. The others are Ron (Ski) James Sr. (Arapaho/Colville/Pawnee/Otoe), G.C. Tsouhlarakis (Creek/Navajo), Hah-Tee Delgado (Commanche), Ben Nakai (Navajo/Pawnee), Don Hamilton-Young Bird (Tonkawa/Apache/Cheyenne), Jeff McClellan (Sac & Fox), Anthony Monoessey (Commanche/Kiowa), Sam Cook (Creek/Pawnee) and Rusty Diamond (Pawnee/Otoe). These 12 members represent 16 tribes.

I expect this group to go far. They were already nominated for a Grammy in 2001 and I feel certain that they will receive one at some point in the future. Their harmony and unusual drumming should be focusing much attention on their talent and ability. Get a copy of this CD and check out the "new" traditional native music.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 15 March 2003



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