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A Music Genre To Fit All Your Mood- Jazz

Music, as they say, cannot be contained within walls. It's definition too is broad and different for different people.

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Jazz
From dance music to a vehicle of happiness, different ways to look at jazz . Flickr

Jazz  a genre with the ability to embrace varied cultures — has evolved exponentially in the past century-and-a-half and is today a major form of musical expression. But what is it that exactly gives a “jazzy characteristic” to a musical note?

Some of its foremost practitioners, who assembled at this scenic beach town recently, have different ways of defining it. if it’s “dance music” for one, “broad in its scope” for another, and a “vehicle to make people happy” for yet another, the search for what the musical form means to its practitioners remains elusive — and yet it is so dear to them all.

At the “Koktebel Jazz Party”, organised here last month, jazzy instruments such as the saxophone, trombone, trumpet, and piano were played to the beats of different music styles to create different kinds of fusions as musicians from over 20 countries participated in the annual extravaganza.

Jazz
Goa International Jazz Live Festival 2016. Facebook

Jean-Paul Maunick, 61, a founding member of British acid jazz band “Incognito”, quipped that jazz originated from the blues.

“Blues is the music that people played to express their sadness, to tell stories about dire lives. Then it came along, which was more instrumental, more free, the music created for dancing.

“Jazz is like the first dance music for me. Free dancing, where you show free expression. You throw your body but nobody is doing the same two steps. There is choreography if you want it, but most jazz music is about free dancing. The music, dancing and conversation between musicians is like that,” he shared.

Jazz
Jools Holland performing at the second Gibraltar International Jazz Festival held at the Queen’s Cinema in October 2013. Wikimedia

For Maunick, jazz is not just “an intellectual thing” — while it may be true that jazz is a “thinking man’s thing”, it is also a way “to just express yourselves”.

But is jazz all about dancing? It certainly is not, or at least that is how Rajeev Raja, the founder of Indo-Jazz music band from Mumbai, “Rajeev Raja Combine”, perceives it.

“It is not necessarily about moving. I wish to go back to the era when we used to listen to an entire album and keep listening to it. The genre is very broad in its scope and execution. There certainly are elements like swing, but there is much more to it,” he told IANS.

At the festival, there were a group of American musicians who came together for the second time after performing first in Moscow. They performed under the label, New York All Stars.

Jazz
Jazz is like the first dance music. Free dancing, where you show free expression. You throw your body but nobody is doing the same two steps. Flickr

The drummer of New York All-Stars, Carl Allen, grew up playing all kinds of styles but settled at jazz.

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“That’s the kind of music that excites me. That’s the kind of music that makes me happy. I try to use it as a vehicle to make other people happy. Everything is cyclical. A lot of things we hear now, people call it new but it is not really new It has been done before. It’s just a process. It’s always a cyclical process where people are putting together R&B, soul and jazz. That happened in the 1960s, 70s too,” he told IANS.

Music, as they say, cannot be contained within walls. It’s definition too is broad and different for different people, or so it seemed at the three-day festival that aimed to celebrate all things jazzy. (IANS)

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“They Don’t Make Prayerful Offerings When They Harvest,” Story Of The Native American Church

“The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

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Church
The sun sets over the gateway of peyotera Amada Cardenas's house in Mirando City, Texas. Ironwork reflects core Native American Church values of faith, hope, love and charity. VOA

Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.

Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.

Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994.
Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994. VOA

“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.

“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”

Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.

In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.

Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico.
Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico. VOA

Pan-Native religion

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.

Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.

In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.

Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”

Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.

Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007.
Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007. VOA

‘A beautiful ceremony’

Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.

“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”

Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.

“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.

This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled "Cheyenne Peyote Leader." Courtesy: Library of Congress.
This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled “Cheyenne Peyote Leader.” Courtesy: Library of Congress. VOA

Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.

“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”

She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.

“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

Sacred gardens

In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.

“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.

The sun sets over "the 605," acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church.
The sun sets over “the 605,” acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church. VOA

In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”

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It is their hope that by 2021, “the 605” will house a nursery, residential and guest housing, and youth training, all supported by peyote sales.

“It’s about generations to come,” said Iron Rope. “To reconnect them to the land and to the medicine. And that’s the healing process that we’ve been missing.” (VOA)