Native American Flute Musician Kevin Locke

The Native American flute musician Kevin Locke has had a long and successful career. Since 1978, he has performed worldwide, giving a diverse audience a glimpse into Native American legends, storytelling and music. His great-great-grandfather was the famous Dakota patriot, Little Crow. His great-grandmother, Mniyáta Ožáŋžaŋ Wiŋ, was a renowned medicine woman. His mother, Patricia Locke, was an activist for Indian rights and recognition.Kevin Locke performing at 2016 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert, Smithsonian Folklife festival

Kevin Locke is cited as an ambassador of Native American culture to the United States and the world. He has also been active on the board of directors of the Lakota Language Consortium, a non-profit organization working towards the Lakota language revitalization. And, no surprise here, he is on the advisory board of the World Flute Society. (Photo by SlowKing of Kevin Locke performing at 2016 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert, Smithsonian Folklife festival)

History and Legend

The Native American flute is thought to be the third oldest known musical instrument in the world. Bone flutes have been dated back to over 60,000 years. First were drums, the second oldest are various rattles. The instrument evolved, different materials being used, whatever was available in the area.

By ClintGoss - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18472165

All types of hardwoods and softwoods were used for flutes and many different configurations; 2,3,4,5,6,7 or 8 holes. In the southern United States, river reed was used. This reed has a natural joint that serves as a barrier helping to create a chamber. These flutes are easy to make and may be the source of the design of what is commonly referred to as the plains style flute (the type that most modern flute players use). The instrument is so advanced that very little changes have been made in the last 150 years or so.

Each Native American Nation has its own legend of how the first flute was made. Each story I have heard have three central characters; a young man, a young woman, and a Red Headed Wood Pecker. I”ll share a short version, I cannot do the story properly so I’ll have to paraphrase it.

The young man is in love but cannot gain the affections of the woman. He tries all the normal things young men do; showing off his hunting skills, his generosity, and his bravery. Nothing causes the woman to look at him. Dejected, he sits beneath a tree and a Wood Pecker begins tapping holes in a branch. A gust of wind breaks the branch and when the man lifts it off the ground he hears a musical voice coming thru the hollow branch.

After several tries, the young man teaches himself how to make the musical voice. As he practices, the young woman hears the music and is drawn o the man. They marry and live happily. Other young men, seeing the success, make their own flutes and use them for courting. According to the legend, once a flute has been used to bring your love together, it must never be played in public but must be put away. So as not attract another!

The legends vary some in details but seem to emphasize that flute music was used for courting and to ease depression, to heal the soul. Modern Native American flute music, thanks in large part to Doc Tate Nevaquaya, draws upon the traditional love song but has an added modern dimension. More musicians are not only performing with just the flute but are including more contemporary instruments.

Musician Spotlight

The legends vary some in details but seem to emphasize that flute music was used for courting and to ease depression, to heal the soul. Modern Native American flute music, thanks in large part to Doc Tate Nevaquaya, draws upon the traditional love song but has an added modern dimension. More musicians are not only performing with just the flute but are including more contemporary instruments.

Doc Tate Nevaquaya is recognized as having had a major influence in the modern era flute players, including Kevin Locke of Lakota (Hunkpapa band) and Anishinaabe heritage. His Lakota name is Tȟokéya Inážiŋ, meaning “The First to Arise” and he is a preeminent player of the Native American flute, a traditional storyteller, cultural ambassador, recording artist andBy Mobilus In Mobili - 2016 RVA Folk Fest Kevin Locke, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68469980 educator. He is most known for his hoop dance, The Hoop of Life. When asked in 2012 about his mission in life, Locke said: “All of the people have the same impulses, spirits, and goals. Through my music and dance, I want to create a positive awareness of oneness of humanity.”

Since 1978, Tȟokéya Inážiŋ has traveled to more than 80 countries to perform and has continued to perform, most recently in March 2016. His performances usually consist of flute playing, singing Lakota songs (some in English), and demonstrations of the Sioux hoop dance, using 28 wooden hoops. With 13 albums of music and stories, Tȟokéya Inážiŋ is a sourse of inspiration and influence for the next generation of Flute musicians.

Native American Flute Music

With distinctly (to me at least) smooth jazz background instrumentals, “Portraits of the Past” with “It’s Hard To Be an Indian” by Kevin Locke is a great example of the range of the Native American Flute. And now, let’s enjoy some music!

And also:

Tȟokéya Inážiŋ has 13 albums of music and stories:

  • Dream Catcher as Tokeya Inajin (July 13, 1993)
  • Keepers of the Dream ( June 27, 1995)
  • Love Songs of the Lakota (September 29, 1995)
  • The Flood and Other Lakota Stories (The Parabola Storytime Series) Harper Audio (March 1996)
  • The Flash in the Mirror (April 2, 1996)
  • Open Circle (Oct 15, 1996)
  • The First Flute (July 27, 1999) — won the Native American Music Award for Best Traditional Recording
  • Midnight Strong Heart (January 1, 2003)

His publications include:

  • Lakota Hoop Dancer, with Suzanne Haldane and Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, Dutton Juvenile; 1st edition (May 1, 1999).
  • Real Dakota! : About Dakota by Dakotans! : The life, people & history of the Dakotas by the people who know and love it! by Kevin Locke, Tempe, AZ : Blue Bird Pub., 1988.

Conclusion

As a musician and as an influence, I think you will agree that Tȟokéya Inážiŋ Kevin Locke deserves a place high in your playlist for traditional and contemporary Native American Flute music.

Locke has said “I see myself strictly as a preservationist…. I base my repertoire on the old songs. I try to show younger people what was there, and maybe some of the younger people will pick up from there and compose new music.”

I have updated my Native American Flute Music page, please feel free to check out some other Tȟokéya Inážiŋ songs, as well as other great musicians there.

And don’t forget to share the music of Tȟokéya Inážiŋ Kevin Locke with your friends and family!

Any questions and/or comments are always welcome!

Walking the Path of Peace,

Sanders

 

 

 

 

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