There are musicians who travel a well-worn path, and there are musicians who create something new. We’ve asked the amazing Pura Fé to come to the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival in 2011 to teach lap slide guitar and vocals because she brings something unique and special to the blues.
Pura Fé is the founding member of the internationally renowned native woman’s a capella trio, ‘Ulali’, and is recognized for creating a new music genre, bringing Native contemporary music to the forefront of the “mainstream” music industry.
Her singing and lap steel guitar playing are spine-tingling. Her lap slide playing is very individual, she’s invented her own style, based on backing herself up.
Curious about the linkages between the Native American experience and the Blues experience? Here’s Pura Fé in her own words on the subject:
“People forget Charley Patton was Choctaw, Scrapper Blackwell was Cherokee, all the early jazz and blues people were mixed; it was like another race that gave birth to this rich musical culture, a race that’s largely been forgotten about. My people, the Tuscarora of North Carolina, were known for harboring runaway slaves — black, white and Indian. They were escorts on the Underground Railway and helped stir up the slave uprisings that happened around here, so the races have been mixing and influencing each other for a long time.
“The call-and-response thing in blues and gospel and its modulation is what Indians call Stomp Dance,” Pura Fé explained. “The blues shuffle rhythm is a Round Dance, the heartbeat of Native music. Taj Mahal talked about this with me. I had been singing with Lee Gates, who is Albert Collins’ cousin, and he pointed out how similar my wailing was to the sound of Lee’s guitar. Taj said that the wailing guitar you hear in rock and blues is the sound of the powwow singers; nowhere in Africa do you hear that kind of guitar playing. It’s obviously a Native expression.”