In contrast to the sadness and anger of the previous story, here’s one filled with beauty. It’s about Radmilla Cody, who began her singing career outside her grandmother’s sheep corral on the Navajo Nation.
“When you’re way out in the middle of nowhere, and you’re herding sheep, and you’re spending time jumping over the salt bushes and sitting around listening to all the beautiful sounds of nature, something’s going to make you open your mouth,” Cody tells National Public Radio here:
Cody’s voice is bicultural. Her mother was Navajo, her father African-American. Now, she sings folk songs in the language of her Native American ancestors — with a twist.
Her mom was just a teenager when Radmilla was born, so she was raised by her Navajo grandmother. There was no electricity or running water, and young Radmilla Cody lived a very traditional life, learning to herd sheep, spin wool for clothing and cook meals using only what they grew or raised.
That traditional Navajo foundation was augmented by one additional cultural factor: Cody’s grandmother was Christian.
“I always remember one particular time, the church had this choir from I don’t recall where,” Cody says. “But man, they sounded so good. And I remember thinking in my mind, ‘That’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to sound like!’ “
So her albums contain both traditional songs as well as ones written by her uncle, Herman Cody, that are secular interpretations of traditional songs.
“We’re going to make these albums just as grandpa would walk behind the hogan, sit down, start making a moccasin,” Herman Cody says. “And then, he just goes at it.”
He calls his niece’s work “Navajo soul.”
Says Radmilla: “I think the soul comes in from the black side, and with the Navajo [side], just the beauty and the language in itself.”
In addition to the video above, check out this link to Cody singing the National Anthem in Navajo.
Tonight’s show is called Crossing Bridges, featuring Jason Burnstick, who is Cree from the Duffield reserve in Alberta.
Here’s the official blurb on him:
Jason Burnstick is a remarkable guitarist whose eclectic range and musical wit make him a favourite of the national Aboriginal recording and producing arena. This evening, Jason unpacks a whole new show featuring all kinds of tunes, guitars, pedals, gadgets and gizmos.
Gosh, we wish we could be in Tucson right now, and not just because it’s sunny and warm there and here in Montana it’s, well, not.
It’s because we want to see Gertie Lopez perform waila, aka the music of the Tohono O’odham.
Waile is a version of baile, the Spanish word for dance, and is a combination of “happy dance”music of polka, schottische, mazurka, chote, two-step, cumbia and Kwayla, Tohono O’odham square dance, reports Ernesto Trujillo Jr. of the Arizona Daily Star. As he tells it:
She fronts Gertie & the T.O. Boyz, who for the past eight years have performed during “A Tucson Pastorela,” an annual Christmas play produced by Borderlands Theater.
Joining Lopez for “A Tucson Pastorela 2009″: Jimmy Francisco on bass, Nathanial Thomas on drums and Eric Garcia on guitar.
“Pastorela” is the story of shepherds who are lured to Belen to see the newborn Christ child. On their journey they are guided by angels and distracted by Lucifer and his mischievous little devils.
“We play for all kinds of people. I think that it doesn’t matter who’s playing, they love waila music,” Lopez tells Portillo.
As he recounts, she was born in Chui-Chu, a village 10 miles south of Casa Grande, in the Sif-Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation, which stretches across three counties in Arizona and also includes a bit of Sonora, Mexico.
The group has two CDs: “To Everyone Who Has Left Us Forever” and “Tohono O’odham & Proud,” fib Mumsigo Ki recordss. A third recording, “A Tribute to My Dad Augustine B. Lopez Sr.” will be released soon,
“My musical dream is to someday tour the world and show them that this Native American Tohono O’odham woman can play some accordion and sing,” she says. “I would like to show people of the entire world what waila music sounds like and how it is played.”