Black Eagle Singers ~ Jemez Pueblo
The pueblo of Jemez is a small community about 50 miles north of Albuquerque, NM. The Black Eagle Singers are a force keeping the musical traditions of their ancestors alive in Jemez, a community dedicated enough to this philosophy to teach its children the original native language of Towa before they are allowed to learn English. The group consists of five members of the Yepa clan and four other singers, all covering a combination of vocalizing and expressive rhythm done on the large traditional powwow drum. Terrence and Kendrick Casiquito also come from a musical family, and the lead vocalist is Glendon Toya. The group credits Little Jimmy Coyote as their introduction to the world of powwows, where the Black Eagle Singers now perform, particularly in the southeast United States. The group was also given a few assists down the powwow trail by the Black Lodge Singers, one of the genre’s most prominent performing groups. The Black Eagle group has recorded a half-dozen different productions for various independent labels specializing in Native American or “na” music. Native American Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico is a remarkable production on Indian Sounds, followed up by a second volume that was the ensemble’s first release on compact disc. There are two volumes of Navajo Songs from Canyon de Chelly released through American Indian Sources, and Soaring High released by the appropriately named Pow Wow label. Jemez and the members of the Black Eagle Singers remain in the forefront of current affairs in this part of the world, much of it focusing on the ownership of property of every conceivable sort, from human remains to land.
Bandmember David Yepa is also a lawyer in the Jemez pueblo, and was one of a small group of prominent local residents appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the board of trustees for the new Valles Caldera National Preserve. This represents about 95,000 acres purchased by the federal government for a cool $101 million, to be set aside from any future development. Naturally, the residents of Jemez have much to be happy about with this decision. In 1999, Jemez became the site of the largest ever repatriation of Indian human remains and related funerary objects. The Black Eagle Singers performed at a ceremony in May of that year, in which Yepa also presented a prayer in his capacity as War Captain. As a result of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a large collection of human remains from the Peabody Museum in Harvard and funerary objects from the institution’s sister museum in Andover were transported to Jemez and reburied. The tribe received another honor when one of its members, Benny Shendo, Jr., was named Secretary of Indian Affairs in the New Mexican government. Throughout this time, Black Eagle continued to record, releasing Star Child (2000), Life Goes On (2002), Flying Free (2003), which won them a Grammy for Best Native American Music Album, Straight Up Northern (2005), and Voice of the Drums (2006).
~ bio by Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi
above: Black Eagle performing “Angel’s Song” and “Straight up North” in a segment from Southwest Sounds produced by the New Mexico Music Commission in 2007.
for more information: allmusic.com