PHOENIX - In December 2002, Est?n-Bah was born. Remarkably, less than a year later their first CD has been nominated for Best World Music Recording at The Native American Music Awards (the Nammy's). Perhaps even more telling; while the group submitted only 11 songs for consideration, they were finalists in six Nammy categories.
The group's three members, Tony Duncan (San Carlos Apache/Arikara/Hidatsa/Man-dan), Seneca Silverhorn (Kiowa/Wichita/Shoshone/Ban-nock), and Angelino Wood (Navajo/Pima), have joined forces to compose and play an instrumental blend of traditional American Indian music and contemporary sounds - and they do it very well. Duncan, who plays a rare Apache cane flute, also writes and arranges much of the music, and serves as Est?n-Bah's manager. Silverhorn plays lead guitar and writes the guitar arrangements, and Wood plays rhythm guitar.
Est?n-Bah, which means "for the woman" in the Apache language, was so named because, in many Indian traditions, the flute was an important part of courtship, in which the man played the music "for the woman."
Formed last December in Mesa, Ariz., the group first performed at a New Year's Eve party. Without much of a repertoire, Duncan and Silverhorn composed their first song, "Sacred's Song" just a few hours before their performance. Duncan dedicated the song to his youngest brother, Sacred Son Duncan.
Despite their young ages, Duncan, Silverhorn, and Wood collectively have more than 35 years of musical training and performance experience. Duncan, who especially enjoys listening to R&B music, started performing Hoop Dances at age 3 with his family's dance group, the Yellow Bird Indian Dancers. His father taught him to play the Apache cane flute at age 10, and Duncan began playing the flute during Yellow Bird performances. He counts Carlos Nakai among his role models. Duncan plans to publish a CD of his solo flute music later this year. Seneca began receiving piano instruction from his mother when he was 4 years old, which, he says, had a big influence on him. Seneca has taken piano lessons, and also enjoys R&B music. He said one of his favorite musicians is Carlos Santana. Wood, who likes classical music, especially J.S. Bach, began his musical education 12 years ago with piano and violin lessons. A favorite composition is Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
The group members have clear ideals, and they express these values with their music. Talking about Est?n-Bah's first CD, "For the Woman" Duncan explains, "the message behind the CD is to emphasize the main points of Native culture: the importance of the family, respect for nature, and respect for our parents and elders. Every song pertains to respect."
Est?n-Bah expects their second CD to be on sale in December. The songs will join together to form a love story, and Est?n-Bah plans to produce a joint live production in mid-2004, based on their second CD, combining music and dance.
According to Duncan, Est?n-Bah's wants to convey the message that "all young people can do something positive with their talents and their lives, and can be proud of their culture."
Ken Duncan, the group's advisor and father of Tony Duncan, speaks well of Est?n-Bah's members. He proudly points out that they are all drug, smoke, and alcohol-free. In today's world, that's quite a compliment, indeed.
Expect to see and hear great things from Est?n-Bah, not only in this year's Nammys, but also in the future.