June 13, 2008

Drum band plays at NMAI

Navajo Nation Youth Perform with the Steelpan at Smithsonian

Twinning of Native American and Steelband CulturesThe name of their group is the Church Rock Academy Elementary School Steel Drum Band.

The group traveled from Gallup, New Mexico to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC to be part of the museum’s performance events series, and performed in the Potomac Atrium, where native instruments, drums, percussions and Steelpan instruments were laid out and awaiting coming to life under the hands of the musicians. The young musicians from Church Rock Academy of the Navajo Nation gave a musical and ethnic insight into their cultural experience to the audience gathered for their performance at the National Native American Museum.

The group opened up with chants and proceeded with drumming selections, highlighting the skills of each of the young people. Randy Markham, the group’s musical director, joined them on most selections. The audience clearly appreciated their performance, some snapping away on digital cameras, others taking away a memento of their museum visit with the Navajo Nation performance on hand–held digicams. Many had been casual visitors, and were pleasantly surprised to find a performance in store during their particular visiting window. They had then proceeded to anxiously fill the available seating area, those without, standing around the seating and atrium entrance area.

The Navajo Nation musicians/performers may be young, but are veterans on the performance circuit, racking up over thirty performances with varied audiences such as the State Department and Tribal occasions, some to standing ovations.

The selection within their repertoire which first featured their Steelpans as the main instruments was beautiful and poignant, drawing the listeners into the musicality of the Steelpan. The additional choices included music played in calypso–tempo and the classic Guantanamera.

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