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Selections from the wax cylinder recordings made by Curtis in 1910 in Fort Rupert, BC (courtesy Archive of Traditional Music at Indiana University, Bloomington):


ImageSelection 1: “Hamatsa song of Motana.” (2.7MB)

This is a very old song originally belonging to a famous 19th century Hamat’sa (“Cannibal”) dancer named Mudana, from the Awikinuxw people of Rivers Inlet. It was this man whose name inspired that of the hero of Curtis’s film, “Motana.” Songs such as this are often composed for new dance initiates, and then travel with the prerogative as it is handed down to subsequent generations. This song was still remembered and performed in Ft Rupert into the 1950s, and is known by a few song leaders today in essentially the same form as it was recoded in 1910. (See notation and transcription published in Curtis’s The North American Indian Volume 10 [“The Kwakiutl”], page 311)

 

 

ImageSelection 2: “Wild Man of the Woods—Paqusilahl song.” (1.1MB)

This is a song that once accompanied a Bak’was (or Wild Man of the Woods) dancer (such as the one pictured in this Curtis photo). The dancer, embodying the reclusive forest spirit, moves slowly over the ground, pausing to pick up cockle shells—his favorite food. Dances and songs such as this are the hereditary wealth of specific families, and ceremonial performance of them in a potlatch is limited to those with genealogical rights. (See notation and transcription published in Curtis’s The North American Indian Volume 10 [“The Kwakiutl”], page 319)

 

 

ImageSelection 3: “Bear Song, Winter Dance—Nane song.” (1.1MB)

This Nan (Grizzly Bear) Song would have accompanied a single dancer dressed most likely in a full-body bear-skin with a carved mask and claw gauntlets (such as the one pictured in this Curtis photo). Hereditary song and dance privileges such as this (called dlugwe’ or “treasures”) are displayed by families at their potlatches in order to publicly establish their cultural wealth. The wedding scene adapted by Curtis in his film, in which a Bear dances on a canoe prow along with other figures, would have been one context in which families displayed such a prerogative (perhaps as part of a marriage dowry for the groom’s family). (See notation and transcription published in Curtis’s The North American Indian Volume 10 [“The Kwakiutl”], page 320)

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A recording of the “prelude” of John Braham’s score for Head Hunters (recorded by the Turning Point Ensemble in Vancouver, BC on August 8, 2007 at the University of British Columbia; score courtesy Getty Research Library):

Selection: Braham’s “prelude” (8.3MB)

In silent movie days, the orchestra or accompanist would have played such a “prelude” after the house lights dimmed but before the film screening began. Like an symphony overture, it contains musical themes that recur throughout the entire film score, and functions as a preview of sorts.

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Selections from Braham’s score (as prepared and synthesized by David Gilbert, UCLA; score courtesy Getty Research Library):

Selection 1: "Warriors" (1.4MB)
Selection 2: "Naida" (1.2MB)
Selection 3: "Hunting Sea Lions" (1.1MB)
Selection 4: "Dance and Wedding" (2.2MB)

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Selection of songs recorded by the Gwa’wina Dancers and friends, Alert Bay, BC (courtesy Gwa’wina Dancers and U’mista Cultural Society):

Selection 1: “Hamat’sa – Lawisala” (8.4MB)
(From the compact disk “Rising from the Ashes”)

This is an example of the third song in the cycle of four songs used to initiate Hamat’sa (“Cannibal”) dancers. The songs increasingly calm or tame the dancer, and the lyrics signal specific choreographic gestures unique to individual dance prerogatives. This particular song originally came from the Awikinuxw people and belongs to Kwaxsistala of the Dzawada’enuxw people from Kingcome Inlet.


Selection 2: “Dzunuk’wak’ala” (3.4MB)
(From the compact disk “Laxwe'gila (Gaining Strength)”)

Dzunuk’wa, often known as the “Wild Woman of the Woods,” is a giant residing in the forest realm. Like Bak’was (the “Wild Man of the Woods”), she is occasionally represented by masked dancers embodying specific family rights, typically granted in an ancestral encounter with the spirit being. This particular song was composed by Chief Waxawidi around 1995 for Lalakanx’idi (Chief Peter Cook) of the ‘Namgis Band from Alert Bay.


Selection 3: “Nan – Grizzly Bear song.” (3.7MB)
(From the compact disk “Rising from the Ashes”)

Though Grizzly Bear is a common family crest, often appearing on totem poles, it can also be represented through masked dance as a hereditary privilege and form of wealth. This Nan song is very old and belongs to T’lakwadzi (David Sawyer) of the Mamalilikala Band of Village Island.