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ARCHIVED - Aboriginal Sound Recordings: Music and Song

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Recording Aboriginal Music

The Early Recording Industry

Since the early 1900s, the music recording industry and radio have influenced Aboriginal music. During the golden age of radio (1930s and 1940s), Aboriginal performers were never identified as such. They were simply part of the musical mosaic.

For much of the 20th century, Aboriginal music was regarded as "special interest" and recorded only by enthusiasts and academics. It had no place in the musical mainstream.

The Folk Revolution

Things began to change in the 1960s with the folk music revival. CBC's Northern Services recording company brought Aboriginal artists to the airwaves, including Willie Dunn (Coshunk), Morely Loon (Cree) and others.

Cree folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie (originally from Canada, but adopted and raised in the United States) [] (accessed May 28, 2007) was signed by Vanguard Records. Tewa (Hopi/Narragansett) singer-songwriter Peter La Farge [] (accessed May 28, 2007) had a contract with Capitol Records. He worked in the United States and helped Buffy Sainte-Marie and Bob Dylan in the early stages of their careers.

Television and Radio

In the 1970s, a small number of Aboriginal performers began to make television appearances on national networks such as the CBC. As other stations entered the market, a few programs included Aboriginal artists and their music.

By the 1980s and early 1990s, independently owned Canadian television stations developed special programs, concerts and music shows that offered Aboriginal artists a national venue.

Perhaps the biggest supporters of Aboriginal music came from campus and community radio stations that offered Aboriginal broadcasters an opportunity to present cultural programming.

Although few Aboriginal artists have been signed to major labels, independent Aboriginal music is gaining recognition as a feature of the Canadian identity. The music community has begun to recognize the talent from Aboriginal communities. Performers, such as Susan Aglukark, have gained national and international recognition.

The Internet

With the arrival of the Internet and the growing number of independent broadcasters, Aboriginal music gained even greater exposure. Aboriginal music labels and radio and television stations disseminated Aboriginal artists' work across North America and around the world.

The Internet has taken over from both major and Aboriginal labels. Independent artists now record and distribute their own music on the Web. Services such as MySpace, which offers artists' profiles, music and contact information, and the iTunes Music Store, which allows people to buy and download single songs, give artists the opportunity to be heard around the world.