The Drum is Alive
1993 we launched our first CD, Stoney Park by the Stoney Park Singers from Morley, Alberta. It was the first time Indigenous music was recorded by an Indigenous producer. This grew to art by Indigenous people and would come to grow into a label that would win not only for the beat of the music but for the jewel case inserts art as well.
Our tag line the Drum is Alive represents the entire traditional practice for Ted Whitecalf. From the tree that donates the wood for the drum, to the animal that is sacrificed for its skin through to the drummer, it is alive. There are traditional teachings around the drum, its shape, the cross strings of the way hand drums are held and the direction they represent and the care it must be given once I tis built because it holds a spirit. The many teachings of the drum in combination of the recognition of its connection to the heartbeat of a mother for her baby as it grows all come to the same meaning the Drum is Alive.
Sweet Grass records began receiving recognition for its music with its first release. In we received a 1994 Juno nomination for in the then-new category of Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Recording. This recognition captured Ted’s ambition to have Indigenous music as a recognized component of the music industry within Canada. He promoted his music within the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, the Native American Music Awards and also sat on Juno nomination committees for several years. Ted rejoined the Juno team in the past few years to work with their team to expand the contemporary Indigenous Music Award and create the Traditional Indigenous Music Award which was announced in early 2021.
Powwows are a cultural dance and drum competition held in multiple communities all over North America. In addition to the colourful, vibrant regalia of the dancer the drums are also in competition. The large powwow drums are at the centre of the singers who play in unison and the number of drummers may range from four to any number that fit around the drum. Typically male drummers are the singers and may also be accompanied by non-drumming women singers. The role of who drums is shifting with time. There are traditional songs/nikamohna, the nikamoh (singer) has a high pitched sacred rhythmic nikamowin (song). Contemporary powow has adopted words to accompany or even replace the traditional nikamowin.
Sweet Grass Records has recorded hundreds of songs at powwows across North America. We hold the largest category of these albums recorded by an Indigenous record label.