Native Singers: Beautiful Voices From Past To Present

November 12th, 2012  |  Published in Art, Culture, Education, History, Music

O’siyo. Natives sing and chant for various reasons. For religious ceremonies, during social gatherings such as Powwows, and many times simply  for the pure joy of singing! Each tribe has its own unique style and versions of songs and chants. Thanks to technology and to various groups of people, many traditional versions of  Native singers and chants have been preserved, and new singers are being discovered. One such company that specializes in promoting Native music is Canyon Records.  Created in 1951 by Ray and Mary Boley, in Phoenix, Arizona, Canyon Records has been producing Native music for 56 years. It was through them that  many Native artists had  (and still have) the opportunity to record and share their beautiful voices with the world!


The Color of Morning CD by Canyon Records

“The Boley’s involvement with Native American music began when Ray was asked by the Phoenix Little Theater to record a Navajo singer named Ed Lee Natay. Boley was so taken with what he heard that he recorded a collection of songs titled Natay, Navajo Singer, an album still in active release (and earning royalties for Natay’s family).  To promote the album, the Boleys took a booth at the 1951 Arizona State Fair. For most of the fairgoers, the recording was only a curiosity, but for Native Americans it was a revelation. They had never seen any of their music available on record before, and the album was well received within the Native community. Before the close of the fair, a Hopi jeweler at a booth next to the Boleys suggested they record Hopi music. The Boleys took the idea to heart and soon began recording music from tribes throughout the southwest. Their new label, Canyon Records, was a sister company to Canyon Films, a company also founded in 1951 specializing in documentaries and commercial work…

Boley made contact with a Native American flutist named R. Carlos Nakai(Boley had known Nakai’s father, Raymond Nakai, who played Canyon music on his Navajo language radio program before becoming Navajo tribal chairman). R. Carlos Nakai had produced a recording of solo flute music called Changes, and Boley asked to distribute it. Nakai, who had been turned down by several record labels, agreed and a new era in Native American music began…” Renown Native Flutist R.Carlos Nakai and Friends play “Improvisation for Native American Flute” at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Courtesy Canyon Records.

Ed Lee Natay was a Navajo singer from the 1940s, whose traditional singing style retained the classic Native chants. “I’ve Gone Ahead to a Better Life” is featured on the CD Natay, Navajo Singer, Canyon Records, 1996.*

Award winner Radmilla Cody performs her hauntingly personal song “A Beautiful Dawn” from her album Spirit of a Woman. For more on Radmilla Cody visit

Visit Canyon Records for a listing of all their wonderful Native artists

*Exclusive Producer: Robert Doyle, digital re-mastered and edited by Jack Miller Productions, Ph. Arizona. “Courtesy Canyon Records License 2011-075″

God sent his Singers upon earth, With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men, And bring them back to heaven again.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~