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Cherokee Nation Foundation produces lullaby CD
By TESINA JACKSON
Thurs, Feb 10, 2011
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For the past two years, the Cherokee Nation Foundation has contacted tribal elders and community members with hopes that they would contribute lullabies for a CD.
With much success, those efforts have allowed for the recovery of seven traditional Cherokee lullabies for the foundation’s music anthology program as well as seven stories in the Cherokee language.
The finished product is called “Usdi Yona,” which means little bear in Cherokee.
“We picked the bear because, I think it’s six out of the seven songs, actually have to do with a bear and the others have rabbits and things like that,” CNF Executive Director Kimberlie Gilliland said. “So they’re all about nature and how nature interacts with our everyday life.”
Gilliland said a private donor gave the CNF enough funds to produce 2,000 copies of the CD.
“They’re going to be given to the (Cherokee Nation’s) immersion school. So every child at the school will receive a copy,” she said.
Gilliland said the CNF would also give 500 copies to the tribe’s Indian Child Welfare department and W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. CDs will also be given to the Tahlequah City Hospital and eventually the Claremore Indian Hospital, she added.
Gilliland said she took on the language project because of her children, who attend the immersion school. She said she realized one day that there were no lullabies in Cherokee.
So she began talking to immersion schoolteacher Dora Dunn, who told about how when she was young her aunt sang a lullaby about a baby bouncing up and down. Soon after, the project took shape.
CN citizens and Cherokee speakers Wade Blevins, Ed Jumper, Ken Masters and Benny Smith recorded the recovered lullabies. Traditional instruments and sounds accompany the singers, and each lullaby is introduced by a story in Cherokee.
“We learned a lot along the way,” Gilliland said. “We didn’t realize that men used to traditionally sing the lullabies so we had all men record the songs.”
The foundation has also recorded a second CD titled “Songs of the Nightingale” that will be released in May. That CD is more contemporary and will appeal to a larger audience outside of the CN, Gilliland said.
“We’ve taken the same songs and we’ve re-recorded them with Barbara McAlister (Cherokee mezzo-soprano singer) singing and composed it with European music, so classical music,” she said.
Pianist and conductor Timothy Long performs the music while Loretta Willis reads the Cherokee stories in English.
“Lullabies stay with you forever, and they will be able to sing it to their children and hopefully that will continue on,” Gilliland said.
For more information, call Gilliland at (918) 207-0950 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.