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Lakota Piano


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There can be few more unique stories than Paul LaRoche's, otherwise known as Brulé. He was adopted at birth from the Lower Brulé Lakota Reservation in South Dakota and never told of his heritage. He grew up as part of a white, middle-class family in rural Minnesota. It was not until the tragic death of both his adoptive parents in 1993, that he discovered he was a Lakota. Paul now believes he belongs to one of the most spiritually pure and culturally rich people in the world. The discovery of his true heritage, Paul says, has had a great impact on his life, and has had a huge influence on his music. He released his first Native American recording, "We the People" to great acclaim in 1996, and several hit CDs have ensued, one of which holds particular interest to me.

Yes, "Lakota Piano" is very special to this particular listener, not least due to the dominant instrument.

The first thing to say about this recording, and indeed Brulé's music in general, is that he is not a traditionalist! Chants, flutes, etc. may well appear in his music, but on this CD, it is the piano, keyboards and synthesizer that are most prominent, and these are not instruments traditionally associated with this type of music!

Lakota Piano was released in 1997. It is a short CD- around 38 minutes in length, and contains eight tracks. It was his goal to create a CD where the music honours his musical forefathers. He felt it was natural for him to turn to the music of XIT for inspiration. Paul says in his linear notes.... "I wanted to pay tribute to the people who created modern Native music, and XIT are at the core of that movement." He explains how the tunes were written as pop music in the 1970s, but contained a spiritual element which was all too clear to him.

The first track rather sets the tone for the entire CD. "Colour Nature Gone" combines keyboards with shakers and synthesizers. It is quite an upbeat track. "Anthem of the American Indian" mixes keyboard and piano with bells and gentle drumming to create a lovely melody. The third track, "Birth" opens with strings, followed by gentle thunder and a piano melody which is also delightful. "At Peace" is my second favourite track on the CD. It has an immediately appealing piano melody, with synth washes to add effect. "Awakening", the album's fifth track, opens with the piano and what I can only assume is a synthesizer sound which resembles a cross between a flute and a whistle! Despite its artificial source, the end product is most enjoyable. The track has a slow to medium tempo and is very soporific in nature. The shakers return in the more upbeat Nihaa Shil Hozho, which translates, "I am Happy About You". Definite personal favourite goes to Track 7, "Someday" which opens with the sound of water and distant chants. Delicate piano playing makes for a particularly beautiful and rather somber track. The quiet chanting (in no way intrusive) really adds atmosphere to the piece, and continues throughout the track. The piano playing becomes more intense and synth washes are added. The closing track, appropriately entitled "End" returns to the more positive and upbeat nature of the album, and features a catchy melody, gentle synth voices and shakers.

Lakota Piano is a delightful album. I have found it very easy to listen to and extremely relaxing. I hope one day Paul decides to release more Native American piano music. Very highly recommended.







Lakota Piano