Some scenes from yesterday’s march through Midtown Manhattan in support of Standing Rock. I spoke in front of the main branch of the NYPL on Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street about multiple pipelines afflicting Turtle Island, the Ramapough Lunaape Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp & the role of my fellow musicians in this resistance. I was also later interviewed by BuzzFeed on the approach to Columbus Circle. Video to follow. Despite the cold, we had a pretty good turnout & the freewheelin’ jazz band held us down, dancing at the rear of the column. ‘Twas another great day to be indigenous & help spread awareness – A’ho*
(All photographs by Kandia Crazy Horse unless indicated)
(Eagle Woman o’er my right shoulder & Kandia Crazy Horse w/ her handmade sign @ NYPL Fifth Avenue & 42nd St before the speakers & march)
The forced removal of Indigenous people from our own land (although we don’t have the sense of ownership of Turtle Island that the dominant culture does…) at #StandingRock is part of a time-worn historical continuum of violence that this country operates on. A trail of broken treaties ghosted yesterday’s actions in North Dakota, the water protectors camps engulfed in flames as per this Time footage
( Kandia Crazy Horse @ Emergency Rally for Standing Rock @ Union Square (yesterday) in NYC, by Zapotec photographer & artist Javier Soriano from Puebla, Mexico )
Last night on Wednesday, February 22, I joined a group of water protectors gathered in Union Square to stand in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock, as we had been alerted via digital smoke signals to the 2pm deadline for forcible eviction. Yesterday, the remaining core of water protectors were evicted from the camps — including Oceti Sakowin — near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. It was also an occasion to enjoy some of the unprecedented pan-indigenous unity we’ve been experiencing, including Zapotec brothers from Puebla in Mexico to queer Pinoy activists holding forth about the conflict in Mindanao in the Philippines. I & a Lakota brother from Red Warrior Camp are both affiliated with Split Rock prayer camp in NJ & spoke to that at the rally to encourage our local tri-state sisters & brothers to engage with the fight against our own black snakes afflicting the Hudson River and surrounding areas — the resistance is not over yet, upon any part of Turtle Island. As one of the youngest speakers at the rally, Abby, mentioned, many of us come from so-called minority populations & indigenous communities disproportionately affected by environmental racism, and we cannot let it stand – A’ho*
A reminder: “The Oceti Sakowin Camp: a first of its kind historic gathering of Indigenous Nations. The most recent such assembly of Tribes occurred when the Great Sioux Nation gathered before the Battle at the Little Big Horn.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe supports the peaceful and prayerful message of the Oceti Sakowin leaders. The on-reservation camp allowed the tribe to explore longer term ways to meet the needs of the community that is 100% off-the-grid and features Solar & Wind power generation.”
See some of the photographs that Brotha Javier took of the rally here:
There may be a new administration in Washington & they are obviously in cahoots with the corporations behind the #KeystoneXL & the #DakotaAccessPipeline — but we of Indian Country & our allies are still determined to stop all black snakes from afflicting Turtle Island. I have received communication from LaDonna Brave Bull Allard of Sacred Stone Camp & others to come stand with our precious water protectors @ Standing Rock — or to organize actions locally to support them. I am pondering the latter with my fellow Afro-Native bandmate of Cactus Rose & some of my Tri-State Native Circle. We all must do our part, when they are raiding camps & dishonoring rights. We cannot let this stand. And I shall still be acting in support of the Ramapough Lunaape @ Split Rock with their efforts to #StopSpectra here in NY/NJ/CT. See you on the frontlines! A’ho*
The Myth of the (Black) West: Jonathan Demme & I screening/discussing “Run Of The Arrow” & its director Samuel Fuller, the African & Native presence in the genre of westerns, the Civil War, the New South, Going Native, the legacies of frontier fakery extended to current “Mountain Men” type “reality” television & western individuals like Rachel Dolezal (who most forget forged a “Little Tipi-on-the-Prairie” narrative prior to deciding to become a black woman) + more last weekend in Pleasantville, NY @ the Jacob Burns Film Center. I was honored to partake in the first post-screening program & hope to perhaps return to delve into acid westerns before the end of the series.
(photos courtesy of Jacob Burns Film Center)
#SaddleUpSaturdays #HarlemOnThePrairie #FlashbackFriday
Reflecting on the West & complex visions of America at this inauguration time, while a coalition of black & indigenous activists are massing elsewhere in my Uptown NYC area @ the Harriet Tubman monument. Perhaps fittingly, I am featured today on Swirl Nation, a blog focused on multiracial & multiethnic lives in this land: Kandia Crazy Horse on SwirlNation
With what’s goin’ down on the social & political scenes, I also reflect on my past as a professional journalist & mourn the New Year loss of two of my former colleagues @ NYC’s once-bohemian, alternative newsweekly The Village Voice. I just learned of reporter Wayne Barrett’s (a notable Donald Trump chronicler) passing this afternoon & have still been trying to reckon with the legacy of Nat Hentoff as a famed jazz critic who partly inspired my joining the field of rock criticism. We shall be missing such voices in the media even more during the new presidency in America. May Nat & Wayne rest in peace. – A’ho*
Happy New Year, y’all & best wishes as the seasons unfold. I hope you had a grand ole holiday time; for my part, I finally got some much needed rest & a spell to rotate some albums of 2016 — especially country releases — that I never got to hear during the course of last year. We of Cactus Rose are taking some time to conjure, connect culturally & write songs during January & then we will be doing two shows on the Brooklyn Country scene in February. I will be making my first live appearances of 2017 in upstate New York & in Connecticut — the latter being a major event I am not yet at liberty to share details about. Stay tuned to this page &
…In the meanwhile: hope can rope yer hearts to join Jonathan Demme & myself @ the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY next Saturday for his western movies screening series / live event “Saddle Up Saturdays.” I will serve as the guest artist / interlocutor for the presentation of Dixie lore & Lakota-themed Run Of The Arrow starring Rod Steiger, Brian Keith & Charles Bronson — followed by a discussion + Q&A. The screening will be preceded by Jonathan’s Standing Rock documentary: Protection Not Protest: The People of Standing Rock
Neither I nor my fellow bandmates in Cactus Rose, Jeff & Kimberly/KAR, have forgotten about Standing Rock or Split Rock, despite the switch in focus to Aleppo or the trend hoppers moving on to the next new thing; and we remain committed to helping stop all the black snakes threatening Turtle Island. So this event will be a good opportunity to come and hear about the Split Rock actions & other causes of Indian Country as well as how it was for me to grow up Indian loving the western genre & cowboy music in the Vietnam Era when antiheroes dominated horse operas while there was a revival of Native American consciousness in the real world beyond celluloid. A’ho*
Tix & more information available here: RUN OF THE ARROW w/ KANDIA CRAZY HORSE 1/14 @ noon JACOB BURNS FILM CENTER
Although Standing Rock has most captured the souls & minds of Indian Country during 2016, there are many black snakes afflicting Turtle Island — & I have been standing in solidarity with the Ramapough Lunaape water protectors of the Split Rock prayer camp in New Jersey that are trying to stop the Algonquin Pipeline project threatening the Hudson River & the surrounding lands of the Tri-State & New England. I & my band Cactus Rose have pledged to Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry to be of support to Split Rock, as they hold the space & unite with other allied environmental and social justice groups of the region to stop this black snake. The news that Red Warrior Camp is leaving Standing Rock & withdrawing from the #NoDAPL fight there, even as they turn their energy & focus to other frontlines of Indian Country, has underscored the need for all of us pan-indigenous united folks to tend to the issues in our own backyards/home locales. Here’s some images from my visit to Split Rock this past weekend; all photos by me, except the 2 where I am pictured – by Hugo Kenzo
I will be addressing this activism tonight at my conversation/concert on protest music & activism @ Decolonize This Place in TriBeCa. Looking forward! A’ho*
( Kandia Crazy Horse & Jonathan Demme @ Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp in the land of the Ramapough Lunaape, NJ – by Japanese-Brazilian filmmaker Hugo Kenzo )
( The donations for the Ramapough Lunaape of the camp from me/my band Cactus Rose, @ my flat before the trip )
( #DefendTheSacred in the tents @ Split Rock prayer camp )
( Kandia Crazy Horse, water protector & Indian Country activist, @ Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp in NJ – by Hugo Kenzo )
Howdy y’all / Osiyo skidoi, all my relations! I have not been able to report back much nor update this site, due to all the many #StandingRock actions & Native American circle pre-thanksgiving ceremonies & events I had over this past weekend & some. Among other events, I sang some of my Native Americana music @ the opening of Urban Native exhibit Cave To The Stars – Urban Natives Unrecognized @ Bread & Roses Project Gallery in Midtown last Thursday; I did #HonoringOurAncestors with the central Harlem Native circle on Saturday, followed by the Thunderbird American Indian Benefit Auction that night on the Upper East Side. And still working on my #LeonRussell memorial article, even as I rehearse for this Friday’s Benefit For Water Protectors concert in Brooklyn @ Jalopy Theater. Ho wa, will share some pix of all this activity by-and-by, but now am learning new songs & also preparing for tomorrow’s Standing Rock action in Midtown – if you somehow missed the horrible news of the chemical weaponry, water cannons & rubber bullets unleashed on the Standing Rock water protectors Sunday night in sub-freezing temperatures & its fallout, now is the time to become aware & join us in these support actions & by donating to the camps. I am receiving many communications suddenly from friends who have been relatively apathetic pre-election & several fellow country / Americana artists now querying me about the Standing Rock resistance; so it will be interesting to see how this continues to unfold & whether President “Walking Eagle” Obama will finally do something definitive in response to these unconscionable attacks on my prayerful relations out West. Still enjoying #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth somewhat — despite the unceasing musical losses: sadly, #SharonJones has walked on, claimed by the same cancer that took my dear mother. This has cast a further pall on the holiday week. A’ho*
Art for tomorrow’s #StandingRock action, by my brotha-in-struggle Kyle Goen #kyledidthis
& a lil’ lighthearted #ThrowbackTuesday snap by #NedSublette of me & my brothas Teddy K aka DJ Soul Punk & Cap’n #KirkDouglas of #TheRoots (the last time I got to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings live was @ The Roots Picnic in Philly) @ my live #BlackHillbilly #countryandwestern music series #TheHarlemHonkytonk #SaddleUp!
As a fan/supporter of the Americana & Alt-Country scenes for decades, as well as a longtime rock journalist/music editor covering the country genre, I became aware of Brooklyn’s Jalopy Theater at its inception & used to frequent it a lot in the earlier days of its existence when I socialized with a lot of rural transplants to the City from elsewhere in Mainland America. Since I started writing songs & then playing out, have long wished to play there for Jalopy is the main equivalent in NYC to what the Nashville country Mother Church, the Ryman, provided for generations of hillbilly singers & players during the 20th century. So I am pleased that I am finally making my debut appearance @ Jalopy Theater on 25 November, with my new Native Americana / Cosmic Country band Cactus Rose: Jeff McLaughlin (guitar, vocals), Evan Taylor (drums), Hilary Hawke (banjo, vocals) & our frequent guest star, Seminole elder/artist/activist Lonnie Harrington (guitar, vocals). Thanks to the organizer of this benefit for the water protectors of Standing Rock that we are performing in support of: Jan Bell of the Maybelles & #BrooklynAmericanaFestival
( My picker, Jeff McLaughlin, with his signature Heritage guitar, during our Cactus Rose band rehearsal this afternoon, High Harlem NYC – We are pleased to continue our activism & being of service via our art on behalf of Standing Rock — as well as the Split Rock — water protectors in North Dakota & New Jersey #mniwiconi #NoDAPL #NoAIM #StandingInSolidarityWithStandingRock #LoveWillWin )
It will be fun to again share a bill with the husband of my dear sistahfriend & fellow Georgia Peach, Amanda Jo Williams, that I have sung with for years: Matthew O’Neill – Matthew’s also a big Neil Young fancier & we commune often about Neil’s sounds & Native lore; so great timing to do a show with him during Native American Heritage Month & right after Thanksgiving. Looking forward! Nee Ah Nee – A’ho*
( Ramapough Lunaape president/chief Dwaine Perry & Kandia Crazy Horse, Native Americana singer-songwriter/activist, of Cactus Rose band @ Central Park, after the Ramapough Lunaape clan mothers’ march in Manhattan )
We of the Eastern Nations in NYC / the Tri-State area are standing in solidarity with Standing Rock today for the National Day of Action. Check your local groups for opportunities to participate. I did prayerful advance marching with the Ramapough Lunaape Nation clan mothers & their Chief Dwaine Perry who came into Manahata from New Jersey on Sunday. We proceeded from Columbus Circle up through Central Park where we held the circle & performed water ceremonies prior to the Supermoon rise. I have been invited to sing in support & be of service at the Ramapough Lunaape water protector camp @ Split Rock in future & look forward to it. Many of us indigenous activists of the NY / NJ / CT area are committed to stopping Spectra, the Algonquin Pipeline, & halting any other pipeline projects that arise in the Northeast. As Sister Davidica Little Spotted Horse of the Oglala Lakota told us last week, the goal is for folks to attend to the black snakes in their own backyard rather than everyone converging on Standing Rock – still we have much to learn from the Oceti Sakowin & remain strong in solidarity with them as they defend The Mother – A’ho* #IStandWithStandingRock & #SplitRock #StandingRockNationalDayOfAction #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth #mniwiconi #NoDAPL #NoAIM #LoveWaterNotOil
“We got to work for Peace / Peace ain’t gonna be free / Gotta go to war…” so often sang my late hero & artist-activist influence Gil Scott-Heron (but he was not a warhawk, he was singing of peace-waging), when I used to see him annually in NYC at venues such as S.O.B.’s downtown. And, while I listened to his tunes “B-Movie” (about Ray-Gun America in the 1980s), “Winter In America” (a reminder for #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth & due to escalated actions around the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance & halting other black snakes of Turtle Island) & “Gun” (for obvious reasons in trigger-happy America & upon Veterans Day), this week & then just spoke with my Pamunkey great aunt Ethel from Virginia, who is an activist/southern belle/church lady in the truest sense & at 91 would have been embedded all year @ Standing Rock were it not for ailments, I was reminded indelibly that we cannot despair at this hour of chaos after the presidential election. We must be strong, we must be prayerful if we follow Native tradition & other faiths, and we must seek to be united as possible in order to work for Peace in the coming days of a New Nation that does not honor nor respect the rights of all of its citizens.
( Caitlin Rose & Kandia Crazy Horse @ Mercury Lounge NYC (w/ photobomb by Roddy of Daniel Romano’s band – Follow @cactusroselovesyou on Instagram )
2016: A year of sonic loss, domestic terrorism against #NoDAPL water protectors & days of rage in newly-minted Trump America…I will not retire from my activism & I am feeling a renewed dedication to songwriting, illuminating the folkways of the postmodern New South, and collaborating with other (Native) artists that also follow the Way of the New World to work towards indigenous futures. So, instead of wallowing — although I was/am mighty weary — I went out into the fractious City, finding fellowship & even some laughs with other indigenous activists from near and far as well as musicians from Argentina (Nico), Canada (Daniel Romano & band), & my sistah-in-twang Caitlin Rose (Nashville via Texas). While we raised a toast of Tecate backstage @ Mercury Lounge in the East Village/Lower East Side to Canadian singer-songwriter icon #LeonardCohen & #MightyBaby’s Martin Stone who just passed & then I rotated sounds of my treasured record collection overnight in their memory + for Veterans Day (my step-great-grandfather Mr. Bridges of SW Georgia fought bravely in World War I & always remember him upon this day) — Elyse Weinberg, Stevie Nicks (who I mightily wish I could catch on her current tour!) & Fleetwood Mac, Jon Lucien, Rufus Wainwright — it was deeply impressed upon me that we must be thankful that #WeAreStillHere able to sing, play, laugh, dance & write songs, despite possible dark days ahead on Turtle Island and all of the many sad losses that have befallen the music world in 2016. As discussed with #CaitlinRose, I look forward to playing in Nashville, doing some festivals & sharing new songs in 2017, with my trusty band Cactus Rose holding me down. Some don’t like (colored) women who are brave & fly the freak flag high; there are concurrent wars against us of the #NoDAPL resistance and the collective body of black women in this society; and there are some entities that have tried/want to silence my Voice – but still I shine on. And I am going to stay #BlackHillbilly ’til I die. Here’s to #TGIF — as my great aunt would say — and looking forward to enjoying the remainder of #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth
( Nico Bereciartua of Magpie Salute (from Argentina) & Kandia Crazy Horse of Cactus Rose band (in hat Karen Dalton) @ Henry Diltz’ Morrison Hotel Gallery in SoHo for “Midnight Rider” photography exhibit on Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band by Patricia O’Driscoll, NYC )
( Why I want to see Stevie Nicks (who I have never seen) live…She composed this song “Silver Springs” while on the Road in my homeplace of the #DMV. I used to spend special times with my late mother in Silver Spring in the brief period before she walked on & grew up going there often in my “Maryland is for crabs…Virginia is for lovers” shirt in the 1970s. Precious memories…& songwriting inspiration! )
( How I came to truly know/love Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – via my beloved & the best male Songbird of my generation #JeffBuckley (RIP) #ScorpioRising #ScorpioSeason – In Memoriam for all the Singers & Players & Freedom Fighters )
( & Leonard Cohen & Jeff Buckley’s acolyte who’s one of my most beloved contemporary artists: #RufusWainwright – This 11/11 tune comes from his double-LP masterpiece Want One / Want Two that was life-changing for me in the early Aughts. I still treasure getting to meet Rufus once backstage at a taping of the Jimmy Fallon Show in Manhattan, courtesy of my brotha Kirk Douglas of The Roots )
Kandia Crazy Horse x Kimberly Robison #KAR on the march of Manahata for Standing Rock #mniwiconi #NoDAPL
Some of the great photography that’s come in from Afro-Native artist & milliner from Texas, Kimberly Robison / KAR. I look forward to performing with her here in NYC next month, as well as being involved with various actions on behalf of Indian Country. When I did the same march up Wickquasgeck back in early August with Brooke & Luis of Eagle & Condor Community Center, there were only 10 of us. So it was heartfelt & illuminating that so many have come to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock in the time since – A’ho*
#mniwiconi #IStandWithStandingRock #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth
(With my fellow NYC artist Cheadah, upon our arrival @ 107th Street)
(In the sage smoke…)
(Kandia by Kimberly / KAR in my “Karen Dalton” hat)
Sho’nuff, I got post-Election 2016 Blues & been nursing ’em by spinning a lot of fitting tunes by my hero / influence as an artist-activist, Gil Scott-Heron — including “Winter In America” & “B-Movie.” Feeling even more wintry this grey November day in New York City for just found out that musician & bookseller #MartinStone has walked on. Regret that have not had the resources to cover a favorite song by one of his former bands, my beloved #MightyBaby, as long planned; but still hope to do so one day. Like the great Ian Matthews of Fairport Convention/Matthews Southern Comfort (who I briefly met once when he got me into his tour of Gene Clark’s No Other that came to the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn) & my new friend/fellow sister country singer who used to dwell in the Ozarks, Jan Bell of the Maybelles / Brooklyn Americana Festival, who hails from Yorkshire, Stone was one of a select elite of master musicians that interpreted Anglo-Americana, perhaps the most interesting & exciting moment of the original British Invasion of the 1960s/early ’70s.
I have fortunately been invited by Jan to perform at the Jalopy Theater benefit concert for Standing Rock that she has organized, on 25 November @ 9pm in Brooklyn. Tix available here: KANDIA CRAZY HORSE x CACTUS ROSE singing in support of the STANDING ROCK water protectors camps
Here’s my beloved “Virgin Spring,” lachrymose, gossamer beauty befitting the vibes today in America. Mighty Baby was the UK’s answer to the Grateful Dead — a band I followed for aeons — & it’s interesting that they made their transition to this sound roughly around the same time that Jerry & ‘nem were trying to remold themselves in the manner of then-emerging Crosby Stills & Nash (& sometimes Young), as you hear on my favorite Dead LP, Workingman’s Dead >>>>>>>—–))—>
Sending you love o’er the Big Water in Fair Albion (despite #Brexit & #BritsSoWhite), to my brotha Mark Pringle, co-head of London’s Rocksbackpages.com which archives my early music journalism – Thankye, Mark, kindly for what correspondence did get to have with Martin Stone – A’ho*
I am an independent, stubborn southern belle & outlaw queen — Always been, always will be. Still, I believe #TheFutureIsFemale & I am also, of course, here for #IndigenousFutures – so I voted today in remembrance of my heroines: my Pamunkey mother Anne Marie from the Shenandoah Valley & Miz Fannie Lou Hamer, The Black Panther of Lowndes County. Sho’nuff, neither party gave us much of a decent choice & Kaine has only paid lip service to #NoDAPL on the eve of the election, smacking of desperation. Yet I have got to take the long view for the Turtle Island Liberation Movement I am a part of & with deep south kin still alive who were persecuted and firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan for daring to vote & mobilize their African-descent community to do so, I will never take my right to vote for granted. And a #NastyGal does step into the breach & flex her power, too – Love, that’s America! A’ho*
#KandiaCrazyHorse #NativeAmericana #singersongwriter #CosmicAmericanMusic #NativeAmerican #artist #activist #indigenousrevolutionary #AfroHippie #IStandWithStandingRock #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth #LoveWillWin #Merica
Sidenote: as a Black Bullette/Taurus Woman & Wonderlove(r), this was great to read today: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stevie-wonder-driving-equals-trump-presidency_us_5820c1a0e4b0aac62485fa21 KANDIA CRAZY HORSE loves STEVIE WONDER (a key influence)
( Kandia Crazy Horse #IdleNoMore in the voter queue today in Hamilton Heights / Harlem-on-the-Range, Uptown NYC – @cactusroselovesyou Instagram )
( Coming out of my polling place, a school named for Adam Clayton Powell Jr. – IG: @cactusroselovesyou )
( Some local Latina sisters were gifting us #StarsAndStripes Hershey kisses while we waited to vote #VoteNYC – IG: @cactusroselovesyou )
It’s a great day to be indigenous, Sisters & Brothers! Leaving out anon to march Manahata along the Lenape trail Wickquasgeck, with my friends & fellow activists of the Eagle & Condor Community Center — we all stand with Standing Rock. This is my fight song…well, theme music for the Trail, anyroad; was singing this, “Broken Arrow” by my favorite band Buffalo Springfield, last Friday night acapella with filmmaker Jonathan Demme who’s a fellow Neil Young stan, after our #ProjectAmericana performance @ Symphony Space.
Thinking of the Missouri River (with “O Shenandoah” also echoing in my Soul) via these lyrics:
Did you see them in the river?
They were there to wave to you
Could you tell that the empty quivered
Brown skinned Indian on the banks
That were crowded and narrow
Held a broken arrow?
Today, I shall be singing freedom songs all the way from Columbus Circle to Shorakapok. We will be holding a water ceremony, after a stop at the Indian Caves of Inwood Hill. Stay tuned for my report. Rocking my mocs on out the door…! >>>>>>>—–))—>
Hope y’all are enjoying #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth & have a grand ole weekend – A’ho*
#KandiaCrazyHorse #NativeAmericana #artist #activist #CactusRose #band #IStandWithStandingRock #MniWiconi #ProtectTheSacred #NoDAPL #BlackSnakeKillas #HonorTheTreaties #StopSpectra NO #AlgonquinPipeline #rockyourmocs #VOTE!
Well, since my sentiments about the state of Nashville’s country music establishment on and beyond Music Row tend to be unwelcome even amongst my former circle of rock critic colleagues, I wasn’t going to weigh in on this year’s CMA Awards, the 50th edition, which I did happen to watch. However, in my absence offline, an apparent controversy has been brewing on the subject of race and country music, due to the much ballyhooed performance of “Daddy Lessons” by Texan artists Beyonce (pop, urban) & the Dixie Chicks (once modern country royalty). Although I don’t wish to gas up TMZ, the site is one of the prominent places that has cited the CMA site & social media having scrubbed their entire online platform of images/references to said Beyonce-Dixie Chicks summit in response to copious racist reactions to the awards show appearance on Twitter & elsewhere: VIEW HERE
Now, I am no Beyonce fan nor “stan;” and I have no fear of the BeyHive in stating this — my backpages as a longtime music critic & editor for over 20 years clearly delineates where I stand on her & chronicles many of my thoughts on the history and contemporary scene of black artists who create in the overlapping country & western, bluegrass, hillbilly, Cajun, prewar stringband, mountain music, Americana, and roots genres. I also happen to have served on a panel @ CUNY Graduate Center in NYC earlier this year, holding forth on Black Banjo, my role in the country & western genre as an artist and touring fan, the Affrilachia movement, and the recent publication of scholar/banjoist Laurent Dubois’ book THE BANJO – America’s African Instrument. Talked about the fictional Darlings of The Andy Griffith Show a.k.a. The Dillards, and how Doug Dillard became my favorite banjo player and influence via Dillard & Clark. And I am a veteran of my friend Greg Mays’ annual Harlem Hoedown, where I always square dance as I learned as a babychile in rural Virginia to the sounds of my dear friends the Ebony Hillbillies. I was a “primordial” adopter, supporter, and then critic of the Americana scene in general, way back into the 1980s, and have watched successive waves of cowpunk, neo-southern rock, alt-country, y’allternative, insurgent country, progressive country, Ameripolitan, indie folk, etc etc come to consciousness and come to market; and always pondered about the African presence in all of these scenes and on the record business side up to this day where Americana is now on the Billboard chart — the year’s big news in music. The pop/urban mix with country as a featured event of the CMA Awards has obvious precedent; many of my former colleagues are still talking about Justin Timberlake (who’s in the process of going Country & recording a country album) performing with Chris Stapleton last year. Yet this year’s turn, especially at the 50 marker, is notable less due to Beyonce but rather down to the fact that at a time when Bro-Country is waning, Taylor Swift has defected for pop, and nigh every classic arena rocker has cut a country record/moved to Nashville to revive flagging careers, country (&western) still has a glaring race problem and its related business wing cannot develop or sustain virtually any artists of color not named Darius Rucker. Opening the show with a too-brief turn by black country icon Charley Pride underscored this issue; the fact that the CMAs chose to have Stapleton and Dwight Yoakam — great & skilled though they are — pay homage to Georgia R&B hero & country maverick Ray Charles, to illustrate the S-O-U-L of country music instead of even summoning their own recent hitmaker Mickey Guyton or Americana star Rhiannon Giddens who was present at the awards (backing up Eric Church) showed exactly where they stand. The citing of SOUL, as it always has been, is code for the blackness in twang; the modern country (&western) scene and business has never quite progressed beyond the early 20th century moment of Race Records and segregating sounds by racial and regional provenance. And all hell broke loose on social media yesterday and today, as country music fans of the dominant culture rushed to show their displeasure with the inclusion of a black (pop) artist on the CMAs, accusing her of trying to take away country music from whites who supposedly have eternal ownership of the genre — despite the patent & well-documented African and Native American origins of country besides the Scotch-Irish contribution. I myself am a Native Americana / cosmic country & western artist in no small part because I am of Native American, African, and Scottish descent, a rich hybrid made in America’s Southeast from which the Source of the music eternally springs. I am also just a fanatic of bluegrass, mountain music, and cowboy tunes — and I claim as much ownership of that Creation as anybody. Keen observers have known for a spell that one of the most vibrant bluegrass scenes in the world is in Japan, and that events and festivals like the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, have been yielding a younger, new wave of twang talent of African descent.
(My shot of superstar country artist #BradPaisley & #CharleyPride opening #CMAAwards50 – credit: @kandiacrazyhorse Instagram)
Here’s what I posted in response to the show on Wednesday night, while live-blogging portions of it on Facebook & Instagram: “I am watching #CMAAwards50 & pondering deeply about the African & Native American roots of the genre; plus how far Nashville & Music Row still have to go in honoring these legacies. Wonderful to see my hero #CharleyPride open the show with my fellow Virginian #BradPaisley (Yep, I’m a fan, despite the unwieldy “Accidental Racist;” I blame LL Cool J); but still tinged with some sadness and confusion. Someday, #NativeAmericana & #BlackHillbilly will take their proper place. For now, enjoying seeing all the 1960s & ’70s country women I grew up on that made me aspire to sing in twang, besides my Native American triumvirate (Buffy Sainte-Marie, Karen Dalton, Rita Coolidge): Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell (!!)…& Reba…Waiting for Dolly [Parton], of course…! #KandiaCrazyHorse #NativeAmericana #mountainmusic #AppalachiaSounds from #Virginia #countrysinger #southernbelle #countrygirlsdoitbetter #AffrilachianNation”
Quibbling about how pop or authentically country any given act is — that’s something I leave to the working music critics. Certainly, the Dixie Chicks’ reappearance on the CMAs was controversial due to their past & interesting to have that baggage reexamined so close to the presidential election. Some staunch country loyalists were always going to react negatively to that. Yet the main issue — just as a decade-plus battle for Country Music’s soul reaches its zenith (see the site Saving Country Music for consistent dispatches on this topic) — is that country (&western…& Americana) is the last frontier for artists of African descent — whether that be Virginia-bred me, Kandia Crazy Horse & my new band Cactus Rose, or Kenya’s leading country singer, Sir Elvis Otieno — and the country establishment and much of the genre’s audience still views it as their own private safe haven away from the predations of urban music/culture/style and technology-tied modernity. It is interesting that Bro-Country, which would often feature the likes of Florida-Georgia Line duetting with Nelly and Blake Shelton attempting to rap, is fading just as there is a rise and music industry push behind a range of country and Americana acts that claim rock and other musics as influences or stylistically and attitude-wise invoke 1970s Outlaw Country: Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Sam Outlaw, etc…and are hailed for restoring “true” country sonics and values […with nods to their precursors Shooter Jennings and Hank III (both of whom I often loved & covered as a critic in the past)]. Yet there’s still apparently little to no room under the twang tent for we country artists of color, cosmic or otherwise.
Hey, I love Tompall Glaser and Clarence White & Willie Nelson as much as any other ’70s babe of my generation; and as a singer-songwriter, I am clearly influenced by my most beloved Gene Clark and the Buffalo Springfield — hear my paeans “Quartz Hill” & “Americana” “Tula” (en espanol) & “Scene & Herd” etc — and the less-celebrated Ladies of the Canyon like Judee Sill, Claudia Lennear, and Essra Mohawk. Neil Young, I see you (& thanks for singing for Standing Rock). I spent the early 1970s toddling behind my dear lil’ Pamunkey mother from the Shenandoah Valley at the bluegrass tents of Folklife Festival, snuck viewings of my favorite show Hee-Haw (’twas grand to see Roy Clark pickin’ an’ grinnin’ on the CMA, yep?), dreaming of growing up to play the Grand Ole Opry (at the Mother Church Ryman, of course) just like Darius Rucker; he ain’t the only one! Sweetheart Of the Rodeo by The Byrds & The Notorious Byrd Brothers were always & still are major for me. I am talented, and I am well-versed in the breadth and depth of country; I am extremely proud of my southern roots. All we want, after so many moons of flying the freak-flag high for Black Hillbilly & Native Americana, is to have a permanent non-conditional seat at the (farm) table, per Mrs. Knowles-Carter’s great sister Solange.
As I go prepare to march for Standing Rock again this weekend through all of Manhattan, please note that the date for the Jalopy Theater water protectors benefit in Brooklyn has been changed to 25 November. Follow the new Cactus Rose band Instagram account at @cactusroselovesyou for more details as they are announced. I continue my personal commitment to ongoing activism on behalf of the Standing Rock water protectors, and the band & I are very much looking forward to playing with our friends from the Brooklyn Country scene! I expect this to be one of my treasured highlights of #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth 2016
Hope yer gettin’ over The Hump well this week, Sisters & Brothers! For those that don’t know: November is #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth
Here in New York City, I will be doing lots of actions & activities to honor that. Among them, I am doing a prayerful march through the entirety of Manhattan Island this Saturday with my friends of the Eagle & Condor Community Center (in Queens), from the National Museum of the American Indian @ Bowling Green (the southernmost tip of Manhattan) all the way to Shorakapok (the Indian Caves @ Inwood Hill on the Spuyten Duyvil). The march goes from 10 am until 6pm. I will also be rolling through the Black Farmers Conference in Harlem this weekend.
This month, I will be performing at another benefit for Standing Rock, on November 25 @ 9pm, this time at the City’s premiere venue for hillbilly/old-timey/bluegrass/roots music — the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn. I have been trying to work it out to play at Jalopy for a long time, so happy to finally do so for a great, beautiful cause so near and dear to my Native heart. This will also be the proper debut of my new Native Americana / twang band Cactus Rose. More details TBA!
(Kandia Crazy Horse @ Electric Lady Studios in vintage fringed buckskin jacket, Greenwich Village NYC, by Camara Dia Holloway)
Made my #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth pilgrimage to #ElectricLadyStudios in the Village, honoring #JimiHendrix’ Native #Tsalagi roots. Received some purple & feathered energy from Jimi that I will be unleashing when I perform @ the Standing Rock benefit @ Jalopy – A’ho*
#Jimi Hendrix #AniYunwiya #KandiaCrazyHorse x #CactusRose #Pamunkey #Afrohippies #CherokeeMist #TaharqaAleem #Ibeji #TheAleems #TwinsSevenSeven #NativeAmericana #ICanHearAtlantisFullOfCheer #MniWiconi #ElectricLadies #CosmicAmericanMusic
We three Native American sisters & NYC artists, representing three Nations & both the Upper and Deep South, had a lovely, impromptu gathering down by the riverside of Hamilton Heights yesterday before the rains swept along the Hudson River. Surrounded by several circling & swooping hawks, we began a powerful conjure straight out of Hudson Canyon — look forward to us being involved with the recently-discovered Lenape burial mounds at 125th Street in Harlem, among other projects – A’ho* #KandiaCrazyHorse #TessReese #KimberlyRobison / #Karline #HawkMedicine
(Kandia Crazy Horse on the Hudson River, view of the Palisades, by Tess Reese, Choctaw)
(Karline x Kandia x Tess, by Kandia Crazy Horse)
(Stormy Sunday in Hudson Canyon by Kandia Crazy Horse)
Between rehearsals for #ProjectAmericana & getting to assorted meetings around NYC, this has been a busy, heady week. Amongst the events I am glad I was able to make time for: Indigenous Forum @ Columbia University. The best part of this was hearing from some of the Oceti Sakowin youth who ran from Cannonball, North Dakota to Washington DC to raise awareness about the Dakota Access Pipeline & related resistance, which I have been engaged in since the dawn of August. Their emotional pleas underscored why we need to keep up our prayers and support for the water protectors at Standing Rock.
(David Archambault II & Kandia Crazy Horse @ Columbia University, NYC)
It was also an honor to hear Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II speak, including about the long history of predations by the U.S. government & settlers on his Oyate’s sovereign territory and subsequent environmental threats to their lands; and then to get to speak to him briefly about my musical endeavors in Indian Country, as well as specifically on behalf of the water protectors of Standing Rock. Right now, we are watching the live feeds of leaders like LaDonna Allard & others, waiting to see what sadly is happening of the moment in North Dakota. Yet, I still have another musical benefit for Standing Rock in development (in NYC) & am committed to sing in support wherever, whenever may be called. A’ho*
#mniwiconi #NoDAPL #ProtectTheSacred #LoveWaterNotOil #RezpectOurWater #StandingInSolidarityWithStandingRock