Adult Reading Level

OJIBWE MUSIC FROM MINNESOTA: A CENTURY OF SONG FOR VOICE AND DRUM, Tape and 16-page booklet, Thomas Vennum, Jr. and various singers; Minnesota Historical Society, Orders: Dept. 121, 345 Kellog Blvd, St. Paul, MN 5510, 800-647-7827; 1989, 16 page booklet, oversize, 2-sided cassette tape; C-003, $9.95

Venum's booklet is a paperbound reprint of OJIBWE MUSIC FROM MINNESOTA: CONTINUITY AND CHANGE, sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and State Arts Board. The booklet gives a general intro to Indian music, focussing on Ojibwe. There's a brief discussion of the unique recordings and transcriptions of hundreds of songs collected in the early 20th century by ethnologist Frances Densmore, using early recording techniques. The tape contains some music over a century by various Minnesota Ojibwe singers, and a lot of music sung (and explained) at a 1988 competition powwow held in northern Minnesota. Vennum provides very brief translations (not transcriptions) of the meaningful words that form themes of the older songs, and points out that younger drum groups don't know thje language or the song meaningsd, often singing just "vocables". Most interesting is a comparison on a dream song by Kimiwun, recordd in 1910 by Densmore at Ponemah on th Red Lake rez, in contrast to its current version by the Ponemah singers. The booklet-tape combination makes a fine intro to Native music -- a must-have for any school with substantial Ojibwe population, but also suitable for non-Indian schools as providing something more for teachers and students than merely the sound of drums or flutes and incomprehensible words. Vennum's booklet places native music in two contexts: the earlier where it has many functions of Native people for themselves (Dream Songs, Mocassin Game Songs, Story Songs, Love Songs), and the later, where powwows have come to be commercial events highly influenced by competition dancing and the prize money. Not covered are medicine songs of the Midewiwin lodge, of which Densmore recorded hundreds in the primitive technology of the day, but also provided scored transcriptions, from which simple songs might be recovered when the wax cylinders are missing or unplayable. The tape-booklet combo is very highly recommended. Reviewed by Paula Giese

File: ad531

Purchase this book now from
Your book purchases support this web site.


Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated:Wednesday, April 10, 1996 - 2:39:21 AM