A’AGA: Something to be told or talked about

Drove to Tucson/Cuk Son recently and saw an ad for the August 28 “Library Night Out” free showing (co-hosted by the Pascua Yaqui/Yakim) of the film “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.” 

It’s won a lot of awards, and if you missed it when PBS showed it for free, maybe you can use some per cap to catch it online via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, or Vudu.


This documentary film released in 2017 looks at the largely ignored or forgotten Native American influences upon music in America.   Cuk Son trips mean KOHN is on the radio.  What an eclectic mix we heard one morning! 


First was old time “rockabilly,” then a kind of unknown Aretha Franklin tune (we think it was the Queen of Soul), next was Richie Valens “La Bamba.” Thinking of KOHN’s wide-ranging playlist, it is obvious their staff understands “knowing your audience” is a key to success.  O’otham music tastes don’t fit just a couple of genres.  We have vaila –some favoring chote, others cumbia.


There is Powwow music, Christian, metal, country, reggae, rock, oldies—O’otham and music are all over the place. O’otham love all kinds of music.  The Native American Music Awards and Association website has a photo gallery called, “Did You Know They Are Native.” As I looked at the various artists, it hit me that I had been listening to Native music since I was a child/ali.


“You do you” is the latest Gila River Casinos slogan.  In O’otham, it could be one word:  a:pi. This is what O’otham musicians have been doing for decades.  Doing you – a:pi.  O’otham social gatherings are like any other cultures, having a good time and vaila dances are still going strong, now with influences from Banda, Norteño, Tejano and Country.  Gospel singers deliver an ageless message, but so do the rockers whose metal message is heavy.  


GRICster jazz man, Russell Moore, is a prime example of “a:pi.”  Moore was a West End/Kuiva trombone player who toured the USA and Europe with Louis Armstrong and His All Star band.  Mr. Moore’s New York Times obituary states from 1944 to 1947 he was a member of the All Star band. Russell then toured Europe with his own band before rejoining Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars for the years of 1964-65. In 1964, Louis Armstrong and his All Star band had the number one record in America. “Hello Dolly” interrupted the Beatles’ string of hits. (My dad wasn’t a fan of those long-haired “heepies.”)


O’otham borrowing, melding, adapting to new sounds goes on today. Andrew Pedro is a young GRIC man involved with bands and other projects.  His music is an energetic mix:  punk, political, abstract. One project – Ceremented -- is a metal band with an “obscure sound.”  Like Russell, he wants no limits placed upon his abilities and creativity.  (And like the Beatles, my dad probably wouldn’t have been a fan – no offense.)


September now, but I’m going to step back to August one more time.  August 16 was the death anniversary of “The King.” Many Internet sites say Elvis Presley had Native ancestry going back to his Cherokee great-great-great grandmother.  He might have been regarded as an honorary O’otham by many GRIC elders, some of my relatives included.  


I forgot to mention “the blues.”  O’otham do get the blues sometimes, so much so the Walkers of Goodyear had a band named “Inner Blues.”   Music helps us get through challenging times. Music makes good times gooder.  (Poetic license)  


If you would like to read more about Russell Moore, ASU professor and GRIC member David Martinez has an excellent article in The Journal of Arizona History, Summer 2014, volume 55, number 2. “Living Large in the Jazz Age”