The most important Native American instrument was and still is the drum, as you
can tell by going to any powwow or Indian event. Different tribes have different
traditions about the drum and how to play it, but the basic construction is very
similar in most tribes: a wooden frame or a carved and hollowed-out log, with finely tanned buckskin or elkskin stretched taut across the opening by sinew thongs. Traditionally American Indian drums are large, two to three feet in diameter, and they are played communally by groups of men who stand around them in a circle. However, there were also some tribes in which each drummer had his own instrument, and it is possible to buy a smaller Native American hand drum for either musical or decorative purposes. (These hand drums are the ones that are sometimes called “tomtoms” by non-native people–contrary to popular belief, tomtom is not an American Indian word, but rather an old British word for a child’s drum toy.)
There have been a number of Indian tribes in existence and in all of them the drum was usually an important part of their culture. Each tribe had their own customs so it stands to reason that the drum beats also signified certain things. Sometimes the meanings were vastly different from tribe to tribe.
Because the Indian culture has always been a big believer in the circle of life, many of them believe that the drum beats in their ceremonies were the heartbeat of their Mother Earth.
Native American Drums: The Heart & Soul of the People
Felt by many to be the heartbeat of the Oyate (the people), the drum is much more than a tool for making music. It is often considered as a living being with a powerful spirit and a life all its own – it speaks to its owner with a resonating tone that belongs only to that drum.
The Heartbeat of the Drum: From large pedestal drums, to smaller hand drums, it is said the drum’s ability to unite people in one emotion is what makes it such an integral part of Native American culture. It is considered sacred because of its ‘voice’ and the spiritual nature of its power.
Once you hear the drum, you will never be the same.
The Native American flute has achieved some measure of fame for its distinctive sound, used in a variety of New Age and world music recordings. Its music was used in courtship, healing, meditation, and spiritual rituals.
The Native American flute is the only flute in the world constructed with two air chambers – there is a wall inside the flute between the top (slow) air chamber and the bottom chamber which has the whistle and finger holes. The top chamber also serves as a secondary resonator, which gives the flute its distinctive sound. There is a hole at the bottom of the “slow” air chamber and a (generally) square hole at the top of the playing chamber. A block (or “bird”) with a spacer is tied on top of the flute to form a thin, flat airstream for the whistle hole (or “window”). Some more modern flutes use an undercut either in the block or the flute to eliminate the need for a spacer.
This week let 3 Chics take you on a journey with our tribute to “FIRST NATIONS” people and Native American music. Through chants, drums, percussion, and dance, the music tells of their history of courtships, healings, meditation and spiritual rituals. With a mix of traditional, inter-tribal, and subgenre the transformative sounds and chants will definitely lift your spirits.
If you are of Native American heritage and would like to share lyrics, videos or chants, please feel free to do so. We love learning about artists, their instruments, and the contributions they’ve made to their tribes and our nation.