I love a lot of music. Music feeds my soul. It has helped me through the hard times and it has helped me rejoice. It has soothed my meditations and absorbed my anger like a sponge.
I’m not called eclecticwoman for nothing. My musical tastes vary significantly, as my YouTube channel will attest. But there is quite a bit of Native Music.
Now I am going to guess that you really don’t understand what I mean by that. I’d bet that many are thinking of Pow Wow songs, chants, drums and flutes. You wouldn’t be 100% wrong if you thought that, but you wouldn’t be 100% correct either. Contemporary Native musicians produce all types of music — rock, country, blues, soul, Gospel, Christian, rap, hip hop, etc, etc …
Contemporary Native artists should not be placed in one box because, just as we are all individuals, so are they.
I “met” a young woman who is a rock artist this past week via internet and phone. She is also a resident of Oglala, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She performs professionally and has been on a tour with 3 other female Native artists who perform different genres of music. It is the “Women of the Four Winds” tour – they have a website on MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/womenofthefourwinds).
The young woman I met is named Davidica. She is a traditional Lakota, a mother raising 5 children and a woman driven by the need and desire to give back to her community and her people. In conjunction with friends in the recording industry, a major project is being planned to introduce talented youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation to the recording industry.
The project is called Teca Oyate Oic’ihi Owicakeyapi in Lakota. The meaning in English: Helping Youth Help Themselves. I will, in the interest of space, refer to it simply as “the project.” But it is a project grounded in Lakota traditions and culture. It is a project centered on empowering Lakota youth.
I want to share the details of the project with you. These musicians and their friends have some brilliant ideas. They are going to need support — financial and otherwise — from the rest of us. ONE Spirit, the organization I work with as a sponsorship coordinator, will be one of their supporters. I hope you will be, too. This is an exciting project!!
“We are committed to empowering our Native Youth by sharing our knowledge of the music business and by providing them with resources to promote their talents (with the help of our Native brothers and sisters from Canada) so the Native Youth can in turn give back to their communities. Our combined efforts will help to bring Natives together from all corners of Turtle Island to show that Wolakota has no borders.”
How do they intend to fulfill that mission?
There will be a reservation wide talent search on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Following the auditions, 30 artists who have no prior solo demo CD’s will be selected to participate in one of 3 weeklong workshops. The workshops, for both selected artists and any other residents of the reservation who wish to attend, will be led by Native mentors from all aspects of the music business, including songwriting, stage presence, marketing, promotions and the importance of staying true to the traditional teachings to stand strong against the negative aspects of the music business. Each young artist will record one original song for a 2-disc compilation CD which will be promoted using the professional musicians radio and media contacts. In addition, each young artist will record a raw demo for personal use courtesy of KILI radio. That demo will be sent to a professional producer to work on. The young artist will receive a Promo Packet via Discmakers which will include 1000 CD’s of their song, cover art, download cards, posters, a concert banner, contacts for copyrighting and contacts with outlets such a Itunes. At the end of each weeklong workshop, a musicians showcase concert will be produced in conjunction with KILI radio, which will air the concert live. To promote the project and to enable the planners to carry this program to other reservations in the future, a film crew will be on site to document the week and film the live performances. That is an ambitious project.
How on earth will they accomplish all that?
Good question folks! They will do it in stages and with great organization. They have incredible energy and enthusiasm for the project, which they consider part of their spiritual responsibility.
First, the talent search:
From March 1 to March 31, 2011, organizers will travel to the youth for auditions. The will travel to the young artists because, as you may know from reading my entries, distances between places on the rez are huge and many people do not have reliable transportation. They do not want the lack of transportation to prevent a young person from reaching out to achieve a dream. They will also use the schools and reservation organizations to meet with young artists.
I should probably note here that the definition of youth being used by the organizers may be different from the one you have in mind. I know that was true for me. They will be allowing anyone 30 years old or younger to enter the talent search. They do this because in traditional Lakota culture, one is considered a youth until he or she is 30 years old. (After reflection, I think maybe the Lakota had it right all along — most 18 year olds, while legally considered adults, are not ready to live life on their own.)
They will be looking for additional talent as well among the youth. Each of the 30 young artists chosen will be teamed up with 3 other youths. The other members of the team will be learning a) how to run a website for the musician, b) aspects of music management and c) how to market and promote a musician. The reason for a team of 4 is that 4 is considered a sacred number.
When the search is over:
30 young musicians will be chosen from among all those who have auditioned to move into the workshop and production portions of the project.
Each young person will go to KILI radio, where a portable recording studio will have been set up, to record their raw demo. They will participate in the workshops for one week, being fed and housed while there. It is my understanding that the college center in Porcupine has offered space and that the Diabetes program has offered some assistance with the food and cooking.
At the end of the workshop phase, a concert will be held to showcase all the talent. That concert will be broadcast live over KILI radio, the Voice of the Lakota Nation.
Finally, production and promotion:
Following the workshops and concerts, each young artist will have a produced version of their original song and the materials to begin distributing their music and promoting themselves as artists. They will have a team to continue to work with right on the reservation.
The compilation CD’s, featuring a song from each of the 30 artists, will be marketed by the project organizers.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
- Gas money – Having traveled 950 miles on the reservation in 5 days, I can attest to the distances between settlements and other places. In addition to the significant cost of gas for team members in the search phase, there will be the cost to transport the musicians to the recording studio and workshop. The estimate for the month of March was originally $1440, but I think that will be low since gas prices have been rising with the unrest in the Middle East. With the additional cost of transport to recording and workshop, I would think $2000 would be helpful.
- Recording expenses – The cost for each musician to record 2 songs at KILI radio will be $50 per artist. That is a total of $1500.
- Working Band Bundle (promo packet via Discmakers) – This is a major expense at $1500 per artist. However, that $1500 is an investment in the future of a young Native musician and his team. The total here is $45,000.
- Food – Food for workshop attendees and professionals will be needed and this is a difficult amount to estimate. The final total of participants will not be known for some time.
Based on both known costs and estimates, it would appear that this project will need about $50,000 to cover the expenses.
Donations: One Spirit has agreed to help the organizers raise the funds they need for this project. In direct emailings and via their website, they will promote the project. Donations, clearly marked as given to the Teca Oyate Oic’ihi Owicakeyapi project can be sent to ONE Spirit via PayPal or by USPS at: ONE Spirit, PO Box 3209, Rapid City, SD 57709. ONE Spirit is a 501(c)(3) organization. More information can be found on their website: http://nativeprogress.org .
There will be a two-pronged dispersion of the profits made on the compilation CD. 50% of the proceeds will go to the artists who participated in the project. It will be theirs to use as they wish.
The remaining 50% will be used to construct a Youth Shelter in each district. The organizers envision these shelters as a 24 hour open door home for youth to access any time. They will provide basic necessities such as food, sleeping quarters, activities, mentoring, tutors and teachings from traditional culture.
The organizers hope that the success they pray for and believe in on Pine Ridge will enable them to repeat the project on the Keeseekoowenin Reservation in Manitoba, Canada. That is a long-range goal.
I am extremely excited about the Teca Oyate Oic’ihi Owicakeyapi project. I hope you will consider supporting the project in some way.
- Send a donation
- Send a media contact
- Tell everyone you interact with
- Send a donation – oh wait, I said that already …
This project brings Native youth together to work as a team. It teaches them how to do something with their talent. It gives pride and hope to young people who have been showing clearly that their hope for their future is fading. It is organized, run by and filled with role models, Native adults who have “made it” without selling out to stereotypes of Native musicians.
I will be honest with you, as I always am.
I have not been this excited about a project on Pine Ridge Reservation since I have been involved with the people there.
There are SO many reasons that I hope and pray for the success of this program, but the biggest . . . HOPE.