Native American Music Today

The Top Four Influences in Native American Music Today

Music is typically not the first thing to come to mind when they think of Native Americans. Usually at the forefront is the injustices that their communities have suffered throughout the years that America established itself as a country. Fortunately, we are entering an age of understanding and acceptance of all cultures, and with that brings a renaissance in Native American music.

Here is a list of four main influences in the musical culture of Native Americans:

1 - Powwow


The Powwow is a large Native American social gathering where groups get together to celebrate their music, dance, and culture. It has deep roots in Native American culture and there are many Powwows held across the United States that have become popular in recent times. For example, the Gathering of Nations in New Mexico is a yearly Powwow that hosts drummers and other Native American musicians. This event usually starts with flag bearers leading everyone into the venue to perform either a round or friendship dance in a large circle. The primary attractions at these events are when the male dancers emulate a tribal warrior dance and the females perform shawl and jingle dances.

2 - Religious and Ceremonial Music

Religious and Ceremonial Music

Even though powwows are universal across all Native Americans, there are still various styles that are more tribe-specific. Very important in most of the tribes' music is the context that it is referencing. For example, tribes in California and Arizona are more likely to include the local warm climate and cultivation as part of their dances as opposed to a tribe located in the mountains where weather is found to be much cooler.

3 - Music with a Message

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Several famous Native American musicians such as Buffy Sainte-Marie and XIT use their lyrics to get across their sentiments of Native American oppression and anger out to the masses. One can even see relevance in the contemporary times and find all of the vocal expressions in Native American lyrics performed to the tune of pop or even hip hop.

4 - Fusion

Robbie Robertson

As mentioned before, Native Americans have adapted modern music genres and fit them into their own music. One of the pioneers behind this is Robbie Robertson, who is known to mix traditional Native American music to contemporary styles. Some of these sounds include various flutes and drums mixed together with electric guitars and other sounds heard in music today. Some of this blending of styles is met with hostility from older Native American generations but overall the music continues to shift forward, much like people's general acceptance of all cultures in America.