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Musical Explorers for Families & Kids

Native American with Martha

Meet Martha!

Martha Redbone’s Native American roots lie in the Southeastern region of the United States, home to the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Shawnee tribes.

Step by Step

Learn Three Social Dances: Sing and Dance

  • Listen to “Social Dances,” Track 32. Then proceed to learn the different performance elements in each social dance.
“Choctaw Drum Dance”
  • Listen to “Choctaw Drum Dance,” Track 33.
  • The drum dance generally opens a series of social dances. The Choctaw people knew that the steady beating of the drums in the hills meant it was time to assemble. The beat of the drum is the heart of the Choctaw people.
    • What is the main instrument that you hear in this dance?
  • Learn the lyrics using “Choctaw Drum Dance” pronunciation, Track 34.
  • Learn to sing the response lines in “Choctaw Drum Dance,” Track 33.
“Cherokee Bear Dance”
  • Listen to “Cherokee Bear Dance,” Track 35.
  • This dance symbolizes the bear hunt, a Cherokee tradition.
    • What is the main instrument that you hear in this dance?
  • Learn the lyrics using “Cherokee Bear Dance” pronunciation, Track 36.
  • Learn to sing the response lines in “Cherokee Bear Dance,” Track 35.
“Cherokee Friendship Dance”
  • Listen to “Cherokee Friendship Dance,” Track 37.
  • This is a round dance, a farewell dance that ends a series of dances at a social gathering.
    • What is the main instrument that you hear in this dance?
  • Learn the lyrics using “Cherokee Friendship Dance” pronunciation, Track 38.
  • Learn to respond to the leader in “Cherokee Friendship Dance,” Track 37. Your response in this song is an exclamatory “Whoo!” You may use “Cherokee Friendship Dance” pronunciation, Track 38, to learn the lyrics to the leader part of the song.

Sing “40 Wheels”

  • Listen to “40 Wheels,” Track 39.
    • What do you hear that is similar to the social dance songs you learned?
    • What is different about this song from the social dance songs?
  • Learn the lyrics using “40 Wheels” pronunciation, Track 40.
  • Sing along to “40 Wheels” instrumental, Track 41.

What is Native American?

Martha Redbone’s Native American roots lie in the Southeastern region of the United States, home to the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Shawnee tribes. The traditional music of these tribes is centered upon songs that accompany dances that continue to be performed at powwows and other social gatherings. The songs feature short sections of lyrics, often sung in call and response, accompanied by drums, rattles, whistles, pipes, and flutes. All of these instruments have spiritual significance and are made from natural elements: For example, gourds become rattles, and logs become water drums. Starting in the 1700s, Native American music was altered by the arrival of British traders who introduced the fiddle, and by African influences shared throughout the South.

Martha Redbone has continued to teach traditional Southeastern tribal music throughout most of her career, as an expression of her deep commitment to preserving and sharing her Native American cultural heritage. At the same time, she has developed her own singular style of American Roots music that is a direct reflection of her own roots: her Cherokee-Choctaw-Shawnee mother and African American father; the Appalachian hills of Harlan County, Kentucky where she spent her early childhood; and the eclectic grit of her teenage years in Brooklyn. Combining the vocal style of her gospel-singing father with the spirit of her mother’s Native American culture, she proudly broadens the boundaries of Native Americana.

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