Navajo music is the music of the Navajo people and nation, currently in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
Navajo used drum and flutes during their Pow Wows. This shows an honor to their Gods.
Navajo children's songs are usually about animals, such as pets and livestock. Some songs are about family members, and about chores, games, and other activities as well. It usually includes anything in a child's daily life. A child may learn songs from an early age from the mother. As a baby, if the child cries, the mother will sing to it while it's tied in the cradleboard. Navajo songs are rhythmic, and therefore soothing to a baby. Thus, songs are a major part of Navajo culture.
It may have been a kind of beginner's course in learning the songs and prayers for self-protection from bad things, skinwalkers, and other evil figures in Navajo traditions. Blessings, such as when one does with corn pollen in the early morning, may be learned as well.
In children's songs, a short chant usually starts off the song, followed by at least one stanza of lyrics, and finishing up with the same chant. All traditional songs include chants, and are not made up solely of lyrics. There are specific chants for some types of songs as well. Comtemporary children's songs, however, such as Christmas songs and Navajo versions of nursery rhymes, may have lyrics only. Today, both types of songs may be taught in elementary schools on the reservation, depending on the knowledge and ability of the particular teacher.
In earlier times, Navajo children may have sung songs like these to themselves while sheepherding, to pass the time. Sheep were, and still are, a part of Navajo life. Back then, giving a child custody of the entire herd was a way to teach them leadership and responsibility, for one day they would probably own a herd of their own. A child, idle while the sheep grazed, may sing to pass the time.
are a form of Native American music
, now most often performed as part of the Native American Church
, which came to the northern part of the Navajo Nation around 1936. They are typically accompanied by a rattle and water drum, and are used in a ceremonial aspect during the sacramental taking of peyote. Peyote songs share characteristics of Apache
music and Plains-Pueblo music
. (Nettl 1956, p.114)
In recent years, a modernized version of peyote songs have been popularized by Verdell Primeaux, a Sioux, and Johnny Mike, a Navajo.
The Navajo music scene is perhaps one of the strongest in native music today. In the past, Navajo musicians were corraled into maintaining the status quo of traditional music, chants and/or flute compositions. Today, Navajo bands span the genres of punk, metal, hardcore, hip hop, blues, rock, death metal, stoner rock, country, and even traditional. Success of bands like Blackfire
, Ethnic De Generation, Downplay, Mother Earth Blues Band, Tribal Live and other musicians have reignited an interest in music with the younger Navajo generations. Perhaps the best synthesis of tradition and contemporary is found in the musical marriage of Tribe II Entertainment, a rap duo from Arizona, Mistic, Rollin, Lil' Spade and Shade are truly right now, the only Native American rappers who can rap entirely in their native tongue. Their popularity and bilingual ability is yet another look at the prolific nature of the Navajo music scene.
- Liner notes: Navajo Songs (1992), recorded by Laura Boulton in 1933 and 1940, annotated by Charlotte J. Frisbie and David McAllester. Smithsonian Folkways: SF 40403.