MNN Column May 2009

It’s before dawn in Honolulu and the neighborhood of birds is noisily singing and talking away, even more than usual. Fuscate (Redbird) has been in the habit lately of singing about four in the morning. It’s spring and he’s knocking himself out because he’s in love. There’s nothing like falling-in-love energy. It has written songs, poetry, built houses and inspired one of the most beautiful monuments in the world, the Taj Mahal. Love has started and ended wars. Guess we might try falling in love a little everyday, with the sunrise, with our tired selves, with a happy redbird giving up a little morning song to start the day. Might make things a little brighter.

I haven’t been out here on the island much these days. I’ve been traveling about the country, to Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and most recently to northwest Alabama to the University of Northern Alabama in Florence with my guitar player Larry Mitchell, to perform music and speak. Every time I return to Alabama I get a little more of the story of our people.

We were graciously taken care of by Pam Kingsbury, a professor at the university. She and the music wise man Terry Pace toured us around the area. We walked the first evening at dusk along the banks of the Tennessee River. The legend in the area goes that the original peoples would gather by the water to sing, and the water would sing back. There were many Old Ones still present along that path of immense trees and those wide, rolling, singing waters.

The next few days we were taken on a tour of the Muscle Shoals studios that included the FAME Studio opened in 1959. Those who recorded there are a who’s who in the music industry: Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Duane Allman, The Osmonds, Bobbie Gentry, and my favorite singer of all time: Aretha Franklin. The studio is still recording hits. The 3614 Jackson Highway Recording Studio is the original site of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. This was another place that still vibrates with the energy of musical achievement. The Rolling Stones recorded “Wild Horses” there, and many other hits by many other artists like Paul Simon and Pete Segar. At the Alabama Music Hall of Fame we walked through the Lynard Skynard “Sweet Home Alabama” tour bus and saw the many exhibits celebrating Alabama artists like Nat King Cole, the Father of the Blues W. C. Handy, who as a boy visualized birdcalls as notes on a scale, and Sam Phillips who created the Elvis legend. The blues, rock and roll, country, gospel and jazz museum features Alabamians who changed the course of music history.

What struck me as walked along the river, and through those places of musical power was the absence of native musicians and singers. What is known as American music was birthed in our traditional homelands and we contributed to that genesis. The African and European contributions are always mentioned in the story of American music, but our tribal peoples are left out of the equation. It’s time to change that story.


Danger: Hormonal Surges

One day the FDA will issue warnings on the dangers of estrogen & testosterone. They will be cited for their volatile and dangerous side effects, and may even be restricted. Every human will come with a warning. Some with high hormonal activity will be shot with antidote injections. Most passionate and violent acts can be attributed to these wily hormones. They break up homes; they blind us to the truth of potential partners. With high hormonal surges, we lose any sense of responsibility. We curry danger because we need connection. Too much estrogen results in excessive pink and pandering, obsessive homemaking, gathered skirts with aprons, a need to be married-to anyone, and beehive hairdos. Too much testosterone makes for hair trigger paranoia, gun collecting, jealousy and rage on the road or in bed, obsessive sexual conquest, and the need to own and drive a Hummer.


It is beautiful above us.

c Joy Harjo

It is beautiful inside us.
All around us it is beautiful.


On the road again: News in the Tulsa World this Saturday morning

No, I haven't been blogging...writing a book, new music and arrangements, traveling, and working on promotions for my forthcoming children's book: For A Girl Becoming, and continuing promotions of Winding Through the Milky Way, my most recent CD of music, and booking my one woman show with music, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light.

This morning I am in Glenpool, Oklahoma, not far from my family's original allotment lands. The largest oil strike in the country took place here. My sister lives here. It has been cool here. Usually Oklahoma in June is sultry and hot.

The following news in the Tulsa World struck me for various, obvious reasons:

--25 Indians, 9 police die in Amazon land protest. Indians protesting oil and gas exploration on their lands battled police in the northern province of Utcubamba, Peru.

--A Nigerian based church has a following in Tulsa. Caleb Agadagba is the founder and pastor of the Tulsa church which has a majority of African nationals, many African-Americans and a few white Americans. He says: “A long time ago, America and Europe sent missionaries to Africa…Africa is able to send missionaries back to America and Europe…”

--American Airlines is planning to force its flight attendants to sell catalogue items on their flights. Commissions will take the place of wage increases.

Yes, we have work to do.