A song a day makes this Kickapoo play

By Arigon Starr
News from Indian Country

February was one of the most beautiful months of the year in Southern California. The weather is crisp and you can actually catch sight of the mountaintops covered in snow.

Most of the tourists had gone home – except the Hollywood stars hoping to pick up trophies at the Grammy Awards or Oscars. There were a lot of black limousines around town that week carting somebody “famous” to their stylist or wardrobe person’s house, or perhaps even to the big event.

The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards have been handed out, so have the Producers Guild.

The recent Grammy Awards were often exciting, but a lot of the so-called “stars” onstage and on the red carpet were unknown to me and made me feel really out of touch. As usual, the only Indians evident on the show were the super-famous ones (does Robbie Robertson count? AAAY!) and the “Best Native American Album” was presented in a pre-awards telecast. As you know, the winner was Johnny Whitehorse – I mean Robert Mirabal. I missed the press release about his alter-ego side project.

Sad part about all this is that I’m a Grammy voter, a card-carrying member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Yes, I’m supposed to know all about the music and believe me, I can barely keep up.

One way I’ve been keeping track of new music is listening to a lot of XM Satellite Radio. As a lot of you might know, Arlie Kendall hosts “Hand of Grandfather,” a one-hour radio show that spotlights Native music on Mondays at 1:00-2:00 AM Eastern time on XM Channel 76. Yes, that’s one in the morning. Arlie’s show is on the “Fine Tuning” channel, which harks back to the free-form programming predominant in the early days of FM radio.

Another great way of hearing new music is Gregg McVicar’s show “Undercurrents” which is syndicated on the Native Voice One network. Gregg puts his show together at RadioCamp in Northern California and programs a variety of music that happens to include Native American artists. The thing I love about Gregg’s show is that I’ve heard my music alongside that of legends like Bruce Springsteen or Jimi Hendrix. It’s a great way for non-Indian audiences to be introduced to Native superstars like Casper, Indigenous or John Trudell as they groove to Steve Earle or Joni Mitchell. You can listen to “Undercurrents” via the web at Native Voice One (www.nv1.org) or through KUT-3 in Austin, Texas (www.kut.org).

The best part about hearing new and old music is the inspiration it provides. I told a pal recently that there was nothing like hearing some Muscogee Creek Stomp Dance music while I’m hoofing it on the treadmill. My wonderful sister gifted me with a turntable with a USB plug-in so I can transform my old vinyl records into MP3 computer files. One of my old-time favorites is a 45-RPM record by a singer named Arliene Nofchissey called “Go My Son,” which tells the story of a young mother encouraging her son to get an education. My mother was a music teacher at Fort Wingate High School near Gallup, New Mexico, when we were kids and brought the record home for us to listen to. Both my sister and I were blown away that an Indian had been in a recording studio and made a record. That was the big time for us.

Even though I work hard to divide my day into completing my Super Indian comic book, getting my play “The Red Road” ready for Australia, booking gigs for the rest of the year and writing new plays – I still find time to listen to music everyday. I know the music I’m hearing now is inspiring my next CD project. I look forward to writing more new songs and hopefully getting a release ready for next year.

For now, I’ll keep my radio and ipod on and listen to the Foo Fighters, Yellow Hammer, Feist, Tool, Black Lodge Singers, Dwight Yoakam, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Mika, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Michael Bublé.

Yes, all of those artists have coveted spots on my ipod playlist. There is room in the world for all kinds of music. As Grammy-winner Vince Gill said last night, “music is a true democracy where all the notes are equal.”

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