By Uma Ramesh

NATIVE AMERICAN music has a long and rich history of storytelling, celebration, and spiritual expression with roots in the traditional spiritual practices and ceremonies that were used by indigenous tribes for at least 10,000 years. Their music tells stories about personal experiences or tribal history, as well as expressed emotions, values, beliefs, and social norms. It has been used in healing ceremonies and spiritual practices, and as a means of communication between tribes.

Different Native American tribes have different words for music, often referring to it as spirit music or healing music. The Lakota language uses words like “woniya” (sublime sound) and “miyopaya” (the power of sound), while the Apache say “kachina,” which is used to describe spiritual song and dance. This music is distinctive in that it is purely melodic with little to no harmony. Indigenous songs were not preserved in writing but rather sung aloud to pass them on to future generations. e melodies are built on short, repeated phrases, even though some of them can contain intricate rhythms. While each tribe has a characteristic style, the majority share commonalities like minor scale melodies and powerful drums playing extended beats.

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