Native Joy for Real
What happens when you mix the powerful lyrics of an internationally known poet with her raw smoky singing and top it with jazzy, saucy licks of her alto sax? All of this over a music that defies categorization: it's a distinct native sound blended with jazz, rock, even folk and a touch of hip hop soul for spice. You can sing to it, you can dance to it, cry to it, even laugh a little. Six years in the making, Joy Harjo's new CD, Native Joy For Real is finally here! This is her first CD since Letter From the End of the Twentieth Century and is also her first solo CD. All songs are written by Harjo. The CD is co-produced by Harjo and Richard Barron of Sonora Recorders in Los Feliz, California under the label of Mekko Productions. The official release date of the new CD is September 15, 2004. 'Native Joy for Real' marks Joy Harjo's debut as a singer/songwriter, an album so strong, so brimming with soul and beauty that even long time fans will be astonished by the power of it's poetic vision. Harjo has created ten singular invocations of contemporary life, on and off the reservation, that deal with the joys and tribulations of everyday existence. The music blends traditional Native rhythms and singing with jazz, rock, blues and a touch of hip hop. Harjo's trademark intensity is still inspiring. The songs feature memorable refrains, smoky sax work, subtle powwow based beats, and uplifting lyrics. The unifying factor is Harjo's poetic and political vision. Harjo (Muskogee Creek) is a successful and critically acclaimed poet, children's author and professor at UCLA. With 'Native Joy for Real,' she makes a giant step towards mainstream credibility. J poet Native Joy for Real Meet Joy Harjo This multi talented artist began her career as a poet in the southwest. Poetry is never on the list of ways to make a living, and being an Indian woman with small children doesn't fit in America or Europe's template of poet, musician or artist. 'I couldn't be like the French poet Rimbaud and gallivant around the world seeking a vision like many of the male or rich artists. I had to run wild between the political world of survival, making a living and the dream world. There's quite a leap. Art can make the jump. And that's the stuff I create with...' And make a leap she does in her new CD, Native Joy for Real. It is quite a different direction from the last CD, Letter from the End of the Twentieth Century, from Silver Wave Records. Native Joy for Real is a solo project, with all songs written by Joy Harjo and co-produced with Richard Barron of Sonora Recorders in Los Feliz, California. After her band Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice broke up when Harjo moved to Hawai'i in 1998, she says: 'I needed to find my own way. Bob Marley is still reggae for me. I appreciate the native connection reggae makes with rhythm and the overriding theme of justice, but my own voice, my own musical language intersects more with the jazz of Coltrane's horn, the smokiness of Sade's voice moving sensually with a horn, the protest singers like Buffy St. Marie and my own tribal music. Harjo grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma until she left for Indian school in New Mexico. Her mother often hung out with country swing bands and musicians. She used to sing with them, and even Ernie Fields, the famous bandleader, arranged one of her songs. As a child Harjo loved to sing, but that was suppressed by a stepfather right around the same time a junior high band teacher refused to allow her to play sax because as he said: 'girls can't play saxophone'. She walked away from it all and after several books of award winning poetry she found her way back to music. First to the saxophone. 'I learned to play sax on my first album. And now I'm singing. It's all connected to poetry. Poetry didn't come into the world alone. Music and dance and poetry came in moving together. They will leave in the same manner.' Native Joy for Real is about risk, it's about pushing the boundaries of musical traditions to make a place for a unique vision in a world that is in need of vision. 'The Creek Indian saxophonist Jim Pepper taught me to step out, that you might as well dance your way through it...and why not a saxophone...' She continues to step far ahead into a vision of renewal, one that includes her grandmother blowing sax in Indian Territory in the early 1900's. She has carried that vision all over the world, from her beginnings in Oklahoma to Italy, Germany, the Olympics in Atlanta, the Riddu Riddu Festival north of the Arctic Circle, India, South Africa and back to the ceremonial grounds of her people in Oklahoma. Some Harjo-isms: May the pretty beast and all the world no peace. She had some horses she loved, she had some horses she hated. These were the same horses. I release you fear because you hold these things in front of me and I was born with eyes that can never close. Native Joy for Real The Songs We're in an immense story in a world that we are about to destroy with our inner demons of jealousy, anger, greed and fury. NATIVE JOY FOR REAL is a song sequence about that journey. 1) On the journey we encounter enemies. We struggle. We could be destroyed or we can use the power for gathering together. Whatever we choose, we will know ourselves utterly when it is finished. And whatever happens, we are in it together. There are no winners, no losers. The Last World of Fire and Trash is the anthem. It's song, poetry and danceable. 2) Rare moments of grace illuminate, give us a little light to maneuver. They happen in the strangest of places and times: walking home at dusk, or just after dawn in a greasy spoon. The song Grace is a solo human voice singing in that last array of golden sundown in the middle of the longest winter of the year. 3) Fear assaults and can take us down. We must address this enemy head on, and in a manner so that fear must respond, maybe even work for us. Fear Song speaks to fear, personally. It's edgy, contemporary and new. The spirits are gathered. We might as well dance. 4) We are tested. Once we lived in communities and in a way of thinking where neighborhood children were our own. We used to run freely between houses to visit and eat. Now children are killing each other and us. What have we come to? Hold Up is a wild response to this dilemma, something to see us through the chaos. 5) What if there's nothing left in the cabinet to eat but a bag of commodity rice and corn syrup? You've lost your boyfriend, wife or lover. The boss tells you to forget coming in, the kids don't have shoes or lunch money and the rent's due. You crawl out to the ledge of the city you came to for salvation. The Woman Hanging From the Thirteenth Floor Window is your cry, your howl. 6) And then love. We all need love, so here's a love song with This is My Heart. 7) Our beloved earth spins through the blue breath of atmosphere. Our breathing links us. Words are born of this. Nizhoniigo is a Navajo word that expresses beauty and harmony breathing through us. It is wound through hip hop here, to protect all of those vulnerable ones walking through the world. This is the Reality Show. Put several billion people on a planet of fresh water, beautiful land with billions of animals, birds, insects, fish and other creatures. Give everyone enough to eat, enough light, dark, rain and sun. Wait a few million years. See what happens. 8) In our ongoing story we must stop and acknowledge the gift. We can't do it alone. The eagle represents the highest level of thinking and being in this earth world. Eagle Song is a prayer to acknowledge the gift. 9) Morning Song is a haunting tune is to acknowledge the promise of dawning: of morning, of a new life in the womb of a mother, in the impending death of a beloved old man. 10) So in the end, after the sun goes down, we lay it all down. We lay it all down and dance. We no longer live in a world in which we listen to only Mvskoke Creek music, or rock and roll, or r&b, or gospel or Indian church music. We are living in a cross over world and we are crossing over. So, let's dance with the Had-It-Up-To-Here Round Dance. Laugh, cry, celebrate! Joy Harjo JAZZ SELECTIONS FROM NATIVE JOY FOR REAL 1. GRACE 2. THE WOMAN HANGING FROM THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR WINDOW 3. THIS IS MY HEART 4. EAGLE SONG 5. MORNING SONG NEW AGE SELECTIONS FROM NATIVE JOY FOR REAL 1. GRACE 2. FEAR SONG 3. THE WOMAN HANGING FROM THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR WINDOW 4. THIS IS MY HEART 5. EAGLE SONG 6. MORNING SONG FOR NATIVE AUDIENCES, ALL, AND ESPECIALLY: 1. FEAR SONG 2. REALITY SHOW 3. EAGLE SONG 4. THE HAD-IT-UP-TO-HERE ROUND DANCE DANCE TUNES: 1. THE LAST WORLD OF FIRE AND TRASH 2. FEAR SONG 3. HOLD UP 4. THE HAD-IT-UP-TO-HERE ROUND DANCE.