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The Evolution of Cherokee Music

Instruments Played in Cherokee Music

The music of the Cherokee Indians has been influenced by many other cultures and includes a wide variety of instruments. Flutes, drums, and rattles are some of the most ancient. As music in America has evolved so has Cherokee music. Over time Cherokee musical compositions came to include the fiddle, percussion, guitar, mandolin, and more. Cherokee musicians play everything from traditional Native American, to bluegrass, to rock and roll music. In Native American history music is considered sacred and is used for healing and building community connections. Tribes often have musical traditions that have been passed down for generations.

The Importance of Vocals in the Traditional Music of the Cherokee

Cherokee music often includes lyrics and vocals with tribal stories and chanting. The voice is used along with instruments to create a strong rhythmic beat perfect for ritual dancing. Until the 1800’s, when the Cherokee syllabary was invented, Cherokee legends were passed down orally through music, song, and dance. Cherokee Indians sing traditional tribal songs to invoke the power of nature and spirits, to ask for healing or a plentiful harvest, and to show gratitude to the Earth. Songs can be shared as a solo or as a group. Many tribal storytellers, who are often accompanied by music, are members of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. Contact or visit Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc during your visit to Cherokee to learn more. 

How the Cherokee Use Music and Dance for Ceremonial Purposes

Many native arts and crafts, including music, have been a part of religious and ceremonial traditions. Cherokee instruments were often used for sacred purposes and rituals. Pipes, flutes, drums, rattles, and whistles all had spiritual significance. Ceremonial instruments were made from natural elements. Gourds became rattles; logs became water drums. In today’s modern Cherokee culture, centuries old musical traditions are still honored in public rituals and in the personal spiritual practices of individual tribal members. Cherokee dances also have deep ceremonial significance. Dance songs could feature call and response patterns or short sections of lyrics sung in specific orders. Many native tribes have a history of putting prayers to music.

The Influence of the English and Scottish
on Cherokee Music

In the eighteenth century Cherokee music was changed by the introduction of new instruments. Some experts say both English and Scottish traders exposed the Cherokee Indians to fiddle playing. All music in the Southeast United States was also changed by the African music influences being shared throughout the South. In the nineteenth century Moravian, Presbyterian, and Baptists missionaries also began to teach tribal members hymns and sacred Christian music. Since this time the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has preserved traditions of fiddle music, English and Cherokee hymns, and ancient tribal songs.

Learn More about Native Music at a Local Music Festival

Several modern day festivals celebrate music. Plan during the Festival of Native Peoples, the finest showcase of Cherokee music, dance, and art in the Southeast.

Delve into the rich tapestry of the Cherokee people

Explore our curated collection of information on Cherokee traditions and heritage.

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Cherokee Awaits.