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Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Musical Instrument Museum, Part 11

We next travel to North America where the Big Drum originated in the Plains but is now at the heart of intertribal social gatherings throughout the continent. The drum is played in unison by a number of drummers as they sing and often accompany dancing.

There are several different regional styles of big-drum music — the Northern style tends to have a faster tempo and high nasal-pitched singing; while the Southern style is slower and the singing is in a lower tonal range. This drum is from the Southern Plains people in current-day Oklahoma.

I love the sound — and the feeling of the drum vibrations. I find it amazing that the drummers are all able to maintain the same tempo. Check out this video for a sample.

The Cherokee call it the "Trail of Tears" — referring to the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which forcibly moved most of the tribes of the Southeast to Oklahoma. Despite this, the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and other Southeastern peoples perpetuate their traditions through music and dance. They are usually performed around a sacred fire. One of the most popular dances, the Stomp Dance, includes the use of water drum and rattles. Shown here is a terrapin-shell rattle.

Worn by dancers, this instrument is most unusual — terrapin turtle shell ankle rattles from the Muscogee Creek people, also of Oklahoma.

Here are examples of water drums from various tribes in North America — the White Mountain Apache people from Arizona, the Seneca people from New York, the Diné people of New Mexico and the Cherokee people of North Carolina. The North American water drum differs from those of Oceania because water is used in both the body of the drum and on the drumhead to vary the pitch and tonal quality.

More than 70 different tribes call the coastal Northwest and Columbia Plateau home. People who live along the coast produce dramatic visual arts such as this box drum, adorned with designs that depict clan emblems or even the musician's status.

Dance regalia, such as his carved ceremonial hat also incorporate clan emblems.

Farther north the Inuit and Yup'ik peoples of southwestern Alaska and the Athanbascan Indians in the interior of Alaska and Canada found local materials for instrument makers. Walrus stomach membranes were stretched for drumheads and ivory tusks, bird beaks and deer hooves were fashioned into rattles. Music accompanied traditional songs and dances, including the region's distinctive mask dances featuring depictions of mythical animals.

Pictured here is a frame drum made of moose skin and wood.

I found this box drum to be a rather unique design — constructed from poplar wood, rawhide, ochre and sinew.

The Tlingit people and Haida people of Alaska and the Samish people of Washington contributed these rattles made of various local materials.

These well-crafted rattles were made by the Cayuga people of Canada out of buffalo horn, walnut and steel.

This headdress from the Mohawk people of Canada is simply spectacular. It is fashioned of black ash, turkey feathers and deerskin.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com