Verdell Primeaux

Bless the People

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Peyote songs are a unique form of expression in First Nations music. While most Native music is monophonic (that is, having only one vocal line, sung in unison), peyote songs are sung in two-part harmony. They are fast-paced songs accompanied by a rattle and a small, hide-covered water drum. Peyote has long been used as a healing medicine by the Huichol of Mexico, and the tradition has been adopted by the Native American Church, a faith that has its basis in both Native and Christian traditions. Verdell Primeaux and Johnny Mike, of Sioux and Diné (Navajo) heritage, respectively, have created their own repertoire of harmonized peyote songs. They have released ten recordings previous to Bless the People, and have garnered numerous national awards. Here they present 20 more of their own songs, grouped into five tracks of four songs each. The throbbing drum and the men's soft, thick voices impart a trancelike quality. The drum rises and falls in pitch, but maintains a clockwork consistency in rhythm. Occasionally, there is a subtle spoken-word overdub explaining the song's meaning. The songs, which are actually prayers for healing, have simple, repetitive, chant-like melodies. Steeped deeply in tradition yet also modern, Primeaux and Mike's music carries an important ritual into the 21st century.

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