One hundred and seventy five years ago on a Pacific Northwest beach, a man sings. A chant in a somber minor key – repeating, descending. The tone is low and gravelly but the sound carries far across the dark expanse of water covered in clouds of grey and charcoal.

The sacred song was bestowed by nature, to evoke a spirit power. The melody harmonizes with the hissing breeze in the trees, the slurping ripples on the shore, the raven’s rasp and laughing gull, the seal’s bark and splashing salmon, the crunch of shells underfoot.

Bushes laden with berries and rivers thick with fish nourish the songman. Cedar trees approach to offer their trunks for transport across the water and their bark for garments against the rain. Raven and coyote share secret stories of how the earth came to be. Soon, white settlers will invade with disease and denegration.

On the same day, at the sultry mouth of the Mississippi River, a man sits astride his bamboula, sweating over the drum he is permitted to play only on Sundays in Congo Square. Hundreds of African slaves drum, dance, and sing in this New Orleans park, away from the severe restrictions of the British culture left over from colonization. The music and motion weaves a resilient fabric recalling African village life where rhythms told stories and movement restored health. Their music is a haven of freedom within the country enslaving them. This taproot of black music drinks from the confluence of cultures coming to the shores of the new world.

Today, I bring these two streams of ancient music together. I am not a member of a native tribe but I yearn for a connection to the natural world. I am not descended from African slaves but I cherish freedom, equity, and emotional expression. My blood traces back to Germany through my mother and Scotland through my father. I learned music through public schools, peers, mentors, radios, and records that I could find in America’s heartland. The sound I chose to create today is flavored by the fruit of family trees both near to and distant from my own.