Posted by D.J. on March 28, 1998 at 11:44:28: 

I would like information on where to learn Native American culture and drumming first hand. 

Posted by Arlie Neskahi on March 30, 1998 at 14:54:41: 
In Reply to: Drumming posted by D.J. on March 28, 1998 at 11:44:28: 

     D.J., Your request is one that is heard quite often these days... There are not any sanctioned "schools" of Native Music/Culture at this time that I am aware of. There may be some classes that are offered at Native American Colleges around the country. These are colleges that are maintained by a local Native Nation. Do a search on Native American Colleges and you should find several colleges in your region if you are lucky. 
     There are thousands of so-called "Native Drumming Circles", the vast majority of which are NOT sanctioned by any Native Musicians or Nations. These are usually assembled by persons who have an interest in Native Spirituality or Ethnic Music. These are not in any form related to any traditional Native Music of the Peoples of the Northern Hemisphere. 
     Though we regard our drums as sacred and respect them. We RARELY, if EVER, use them without a Song. I personally never use my drum without a Song, yet I sing many songs without the drum. In some regard, it is even considered bad manners to the animal spirit of the hide to beat the hide without a song... A song is seen as what you have to offer for the privilege of using that animal's skin. 
     These so-called "shamanic-drumming" circles are for the most part poor imitations of our traditions. All kinds of "shamanic" qualities have been attached to these practices... I do not endorse these circles as Native. The only thing that may be native about them is the use of native american style hand drums that are usually made and bought from a non-native who has learned how to make them. There is quite a trade now by non-natives selling these articles, and I have been to these shops and seen stacks and stacks of drums... We don't follow these practices, we are taught not to hoard up things, especially ritual items, it is disrespectful... When I visit these shops, my eyes tear up to see them like that. 
     I believe the word shaman, originates from the indigenous subartic cultures of the steppes region of the eastern hemisphere. Maybe there they have "shamanic drumming traditions", but here we pretty much have what might be called, to create a different perspective, "shamanic singing". All that is claimed of this "shamanic drumming" we accomplish here in this continent through the Vocal Arts. We are masters of this genre, while other cultures are masters of the syncopated drumming arts. To be a medicine person in our world, you don't need to learn drumming, you need to spend years learning the proper Songs to sing for a ceremony... 
     I would really like to see people drop the title, Native, from these circles. The ones that I have seen don't have anything to do, even rhythmically, with our drumming styles... They are usually based on highly syncopated African, East Indian and even Celtic type rhythms. Which is fine to me, those are very valid drumming traditions that I admire, with strong spiritual and ritual roots. But they are NOT native to North America. 
     Our syncopation of rhythm is in Vocal Technique, which has never been studied, rather than highly syncopated rhythms with percussive instruments. Our percussive technique is almost always a very simple rhythm, while our vocable patterns are very, very syncopated, requiring years to learn proper vocal patterns and flourishes. 
     There are some examples that border on being an exception to this. I will give two examples. First, the drumming styles of the Rio Grande Pueblo Peoples in their Kiva and Animal Songs. If one listens to these songs they will hear a wide variety of tempo and rhythm changes. BUT, these changes are based on the flow and vocables of the song. It is the song that determines where the rhythm changes occur, which is the opposite of African and Celtic "grooves", which repeat the same cycle of beats and rhythms, every 8 to 16 counts or more. A song must fit into these grooves. 
     But, almost all Native traditional songs are NOT tied to a groove. We rarely ever count out a song and drumming... It has been a source of extreme exasperation for non-native musicians with whom I collaborate musically! They want that groove and it isn't there, they are lost without the downbeat!! I know hundreds of songs and NEVER count while singing or drumming to them. The idea is so foreign it makes us Native Musicians laugh... 
     Another example would be the Bird Songs of the Southern Arizona and California Desert Peoples. Here you will find some of the finest gourd/rattle technique in North America, these singers are masters of the gourd. They have many subtle styles that they use with these songs, but once again, there is no groove. No counting, a simple set of highly trained hand rattles tied to the song... 
     So, to try to give yet again another perspective. All Native Traditional Musical core is the Song/Melody/Vocables, the drumming is accompaniment. 
     I hope this is helpful, I take it from the tone of your question that you are seeking real answers, and I have tried my best to provide some clarification. Maybe you will find a mentor, you are welcome to post a request here for a music mentor and a Native Musician from your region might be willing to entertain a request. Traditional Native Music has exploded over the last decade and Musicians can be found even in the large metro areas. With this context, the proper request would be a request to learn some songs... 

...for the Generations... 

Posted by D.J. on March 30, 1998 at 19:18:02: 
In Reply to: Re: Drumming posted by Arlie Neskahi on March 30, 1998 at 14:54:41: 

Thank you for answering. Yes, it did help with what I was wanting to know. I am so interested in the music as a whole, and I will search for a mentor. 

Once again, Thank you.