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*
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
“Manhattan Given Back To Indians…” & Benny Andrews’ Bicentennial Blues & Frohawk Two Feathers’ Frenglish New York
Given that I was out all day yesterday — primarily attending an uptown art salon in Lower Harlem, where I sang — I completely missed this odd bit of NYC local news: MANHATTAN GIVEN BACK TO INDIANS (well at least a part of it)
Although I have some close ties with the Ramapough Lunaape and am acquainted with Chief Dwaine Perry, I have not to my knowledge crossed paths with the New York Post article’s cited chief Anthony Jay Van Dunk nor have I met the cited son of artist Louise Bourgeois — I have been a fleeting fan of hers due to her longevity/continuing to create but expertise on her life & oeuvre lies with my twin sister, the art historian — Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois. I don’t know quite what to make of this transaction, but if the ultimate result is a patahmaniikan (prayer house) then fine. I did not get to participate in the Ramapough winter ceremony this past Saturday out @ Split Rock, for it was cancelled due to snow/inclement weather; so I have not heard any direct commentary from the Source, as it were.
The article says Bourgeois fils has been a Standing Rock benefactor, yet I was more interested to learn of other Natives’ participation in the Occupy Movement for in all the months I was involved in it, particularly Occupy Music, I never met any. Now, if only this M. Bourgeois would get behind the fight to establish Indigenous Peoples Day in NYC. Overall, it was just a little odd piece of news to be sent to me by other Urban Native friends, at the end of the year when Standing Rock has become such a Hollywood trendy Cause (Elvis’ grand baby appearing at hyped LA benefits) & indigenous chic itself has been atomizing err’where — especially on the backs of musical artists with no Native roots including hip-hop ones & judges of The Voice like Alicia Keys — but I am still encountering folks who never heard of what’s going on with the Dakota Access Pipeline (or any other of this land’s black snakes). It’s weird to be revisiting the apocryphal sale of Manhattan by the Lenape to the Dutch, even as our Tri-State news is dominated by news of president-elect Trump’s vast real estate holdings here, the need to barricade Trump Tower in Midtown, and the ongoing discussion of the City as Trump’s fiefdom. I hope the Ramapough do not get targeted by limousine liberals, due to their local residence. Meantime, instead of hashtagging activism, focus & funds need to be directed to the many Native protectors of Standing Rock who are now facing felonies / about to have their cases trafficked through the courts in North Dakota — and there’s inadequate legal representation for most. Some of us staying woke despite the narcotic of holiday cheer.
(Chief Van Dunk, Ramapough, & art patron/architectural historian Bourgeois via New York Post)
Anyroad, I believe this story jumped out at me due to a long conversation about Native American roots out of the Mid-Atlantic and “outsider art” creation we had on Friday afternoon in Chelsea, on the verge of a gallery crawl through the ‘hood to see Titus Kaphar’s opening @ Jack Shainman & the great Bicentennial Series show of one of my favorite painters/fellow Georgian Benny Andrews @ Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. Some strange confluence out of the dialogue and Early Colonial (Kaphar) plus Bicentennial/Jim Crow reflection (Andrews) stirred things up…& made me recall the peculiar but beautiful work of Frohawk Two Feathers who was de vogue a few years back, with prominent Chelsea gallery representation & who I have never met but this particular project is extremely similar to my inner imaginorium/worldview – although he is younger than I, born (interestingly) in the year of the American Bicentennial, 1976: Heartbreaking and shit, but that’s the globe. The Battle of Manhattan
(By Frohawk Two Feathers)
Chicago-born, LA-based Frohawk Two Feathers is the alias of Afro-Native artist Umar Rashid (who also does vanguard and alt-hip-hop music under the monikers Kent Cyclone & Tha Grimm Teachaz); and the 2014 culmination of a series of his work blending Afrofuturism and fact / fiction of early settler colonialism in the Americas caught my notice for decades prior to my arrival in New York City — in part due to my Native American great aunt Helena’s residence in Harlem since the 1930s — I had been an (alternative) history buff preoccupied with the lore of the Ramapough, Jacks-and-Whites / other isolates of the area; the apocryphal sale of Manahata and the Algonquin villages of the landmass; and the religious/occult traditions arising from the upstate Burned-Over District. [Which also drew my interest to the now-defunct Sundance network show The Red Road, which focused on Ramapough, starring half-Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa who claims Native American & for which my cousin’s wife Marcey Tree-In-The-Wind served as a consultant.] Two Feathers’ work seemed to at least gloss similar concerns:
“Bonnie Prince Johnnie, flamboyant pharaoh of New York; Francesca, a.k.a. Tisiphone, Native American assassin; Maurits de Wolff, former slave and soldier extraordinaire; Akosua Van Der Zee, wrathful feminist and malicious schemer.
These are a few of the characters in a wildly original telling of the fictional Battle of Yonkers in 18th-century New York; their portraits and those of other tattooed warriors, misled rulers and vengeful women…
…[final] installment of “The American Proteus: An Invocation and the Wars Between the Rivers,” an alternative account of the colonization of northeastern North America that is both written and visual in form, epic in scope, and built around the imaginary Republic of Frengland (a combination of England, France and Ireland).”
There were paintings that were meta portraits or sometimes reminiscent of historical battles depicted on deerskins or echoing ledger art, mixed with art forms of ancient KMT & tipis on display as well. They were somewhat unnerving, for it was like an unknown Spirit had excavated my interior landscape & reproduced it for all eyes to see. And I will leave it at that for now, for there’s far more concerning this work that I wish to explore…A’ho*
(By Frohawk Two Feathers)
Many moons ago, I worked at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture of the New York Public Library system — in the last days of the tenure there of my hometown hero Ellis Haizlip, onetime host of the best television show ever: SOUL! I was seeing Mr. Haizlip’s ghost ’round every corner, strolling around in his typical dashiki & tailored slacks, last night @ the Schomburg even before his name was invoked by an elder audience member after the Black Banjo event we were in attendance at the Langston Hughes Auditorium: Banjo Stories & Songs From Haiti & New Orleans, featuring my acquaintance Laurent Dubois (a banjo-playing, Belgian-American scholar from Duke University; I did a talk with him @ CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown back in the spring for the release of his new Harvard tome: The Banjo – America’s African Instrument) & my new friend Leyla McCalla, the Haitian-American banjoist who resides in New Orleans singing songs in English, French, Kreyol & the lone member of my friends’ band the Carolina Chocolate Drops that I had yet to meet. The cited episode of SOUL! featured Taj Mahal (ex-Rising Sons) doing an entire suite of banjo & ole-timey music, talking about the instrument’s African origins and encouraging youngbloods to take up the instrument; this aired back when I was a babychile and obviously there remains a stark racial & generational divide regarding banjo players when the instrument is trendy primarily amongst white Millennials who adopted it after the release of the Coen Brothers’ pastoral pastiche film O! Brother Where Art Thou? with its peerless ole-timey/Americana soundtrack, and the rise of these bands in the Aughts: Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers (I was one of the first to cover them as a rock/country critic alongside the Carolina Chocolate Drops, as they were emerging from the North Carolina Piedmont), & Old Crow Medicine Show. Nothing against these bands & the untimely passing of Pete Seeger has also played a role – indeed, he looms large in Laurent’s book — but we still have high hopes that young black kids will get hip to the banjo & take up our decades of work in keeping the black twang musical traditions thriving. I was interviewed for Joaquin Cotler’s podcast on these issues after Leyla’s performance, at the Schomburg; I will share it when it airs.
My dear #BlackHillbilly / twang family of the Ebony Hillbillies were also special guests like myself & we were in high cotton, enjoying the themes and music of the program. The Ebony Hillbillies generously performed at the Standing Rock benefit I curated @ Decolonize This Place back at the dawn of October; I look forward to future collaborations with them — and now — also with Sistah Leyla.
The banjo was my favorite instrument even before I knew of its African roots & I still hope to take it up — possibly in 2017, since I have been invited to the Danny Barker banjo festival in New Orleans by the guitarist/banjoist Detroit Brooks Sr. of jazz titan Donald Harrison’s band who does a lot of outreach in his community and beyond to keep black banjo traditions alive. Black artists (& the Afropolitan ones trying to appropriate southern accents and songlines in the UK) in country music are not a novelty nor a trend; whatever the outcome for current youtube sensation Kane Brown, who’s an Afro-Native (Tsalagi)/biracial country singer from rural Georgia in the “bro” mold (Young Kane & I have several thangs in common), we are here to stay. So #SaddleUp!
( Leyla McCalla of New Orleans & Kandia Crazy Horse of Hudson Canyon, Sistahs of Twang, @ Schomburg Center, Harlem NYC )
( Kandia Crazy Horse & Kimberly Robison, Virginia Native American songbirds/activists of Cactus Rose + Gloria Gassaway, Catawba lead vocalist/bones player/activist of the Ebony Hillbillies (from South Carolina) – We southern belles love to gather, do actions for #StandingRock & sing to honor our Ancestors. Miz Gloria almost went out to Standing Rock last week with our heroine Pure Fe of Ulali; we hope to combine our efforts & make a sojourn together soon come – A’ho* )
(Throwback to last Thursday night in SoHo @ Morrison Hotel Gallery for private view of Neil Young: Long May You Run exhibit, featuring photographs by Henry Diltz, Joel Bernstein, Danny Clinch & others. Here I am “waging heavy peace” with Henry’s famed image of my hero Neil & his dog Harte in the barn door of his ranch in California, Broken Arrow (named after my favorite Buffalo Springfield native american-themed tune & a Delmer Daves western from the early 1950s), from the year I was born, NYC)
Just returned a bit earlier from my twin Camara’s #blackartandactivismnow event in TriBeCa @ our home away from home #DecolonizeThisPlace — fortunately, my Black Rock Coalition/Bold As Love good friend/compadre Rob Fields was seated by me at the program, sharing the digital smoke signals about the #NoDAPL good news with me during the panel & then, upon returning home, got a ring from my friend Jonathan from the camps @ the frontline in North Dakota giving the confirmation that the easement was not granted to ETA – if they git’er done, Jonathan’s footage will appear on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS Tuesday night. I finally truly believe in the power of prayer, happy to see such a great outcome after many months of organizing, laboring, marching, rallying & of course, singing, in support of #StandingRock.
Yet this is not the end, for we #blacksnakekillers of the Tri-State must be heartened by this result & continue to fight to #StopSpectra #NoAIM #NoAlgonquinPipeline & I remain #standinginsolidaritywithsplitrock >>>>>>>—–))—>♥ Sometimes we on the right side of history can prevail & conscience trumps greed and corruption. Thank you, President Barack H. “Walking Eagle” Obama & the Army Corps for your action!
Overjoyed that we water protectors have won! The Dakota Access Pipeline will be re-routed, which is a hard-won victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe & rest of the Oceti Sakowin. The ordered environmental impact statement will take months to complete, so it’s not all over & done yet. Still, we celebrate this huge victory & I will report back on the gnosis and mood of tomorrow night’s Democracy Now! event held by Harry Belafonte & Danny Glover et al @ Harlem’s Riverside Church – A’ho!
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
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*
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
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
Sacred Water Medicine Show: My Standing Rock water protectors benefit concert in NYC #mniwiconi #NoDAPL
Good Friday, y’all! I am now getting feedback & documentation from the Standing Rock water protector camps benefit I conceived, curated & performed at last Saturday in Manhattan @ Decolonize This Place (Artists Space) in TriBeCa. Such was the response, I have been asked to undertake some more & when things develop, I will be sharing the word here & on my Instagram. Regardless, my personal commitment to praying for & helping support the Oceti Sakowin & other united nations assembled @ Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota remains unabated; the setbacks to the trips I was slated on since August were unavoidable, yet I still plan to be of service there. And we of the Eastern nations are paying attention to the similar projects here in our own “backyard,” such as the Algonquin Pipeline, & doing actions locally.
My #IndigenousWeek in NYC concludes tomorrow with the re-opening of the Caribbean Cultural Center (CCCADI) in Harlem on 125th Street. More to come! A’ho*
“Water Is Life – Solidarity Concert” on Saturday, October 8th, 2016 (All photographs by Camara Dia Holloway)
(Kandia Crazy Horse giving the Introduction to the benefit concert @ Decolonize This Place in TriBeCa, by Camara Dia Holloway)
(Kandia Crazy Horse & Morgan O’Kane, singers/songwriters/purveyors of twang & Appalachian-rooted mountain music, from Virginia)
(With my lead guitar player/singer Jeff McLaughlin – Cactus Rose by Theodore Kuhnapfel)
(Bejike Luis Sanakori Ramos doing water ceremony & closing dance)
(My Tsalagi aunty Eagle Woman (our hostess & emcee) & the gang getting the shoutout on the welcome wall @ Decolonize This Place)
(Rehearsing for the Standing Rock benefit earlier last week in Midtown, with Alex & Lonnie)
On Tuesday night in the West Village, I had the great honor of hearing spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse & his lovely wife Mrs. Paula of the Cheyenne River Reservation speak at Indigenous Voices. The stories they both shared expressed a great depth of wisdom & compassion as well as some worry for indigenous futures. As we continue to stand with Standing Rock and aid the water protectors for the long haul through this winter, there is a lot to think about, act on, and — as Mrs. Paula said — learn to pray centered from our umbilical cords rather than our trickster hearts.
I am still processing all that I learned from them & heard about the frontline in Standing Rock, so I will offer forth more this Saturday night at my Standing Rock benefit in lower Manhattan — Water Is Life – Solidarity Concert — and in the weeks to come (including during Indigenous Day of Remembrance @ Central Park where I shall be sharing songs & ceremony).
Kandia Crazy Horse (left) & Amy from Decolonize This Place @ the opening launch in TriBeCa – Amongst the many great allies I have met up with during my engagement with the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance, I include Amy (above), Brotha Amir Husain & the rest of the gang from the new Manhattan artists & revolutionary action space, Decolonize This Place. They will be hosting ongoing actions and events at their space including my own Sacred Water Medicine Show on Saturday, October 8th, 2016 @ 7pm. Check them out on Facebook to see their scheduling. We really connected at the #NoDAPL rally in Washington Square Park in early September, and will continue to be united in the pipeline resistance amongst other pressing causes affecting Indian Country, Palestine, the Boogiedown Bronx, and beyond