TAOS, N.M. - "Take it away Mandaree" is a common phrase for pow wow emcees. The traditional Northern style group is frequently asked to be host drum at some of the largest pow wows across the country.
"Mandaree, Live at Crow Fair" was recorded Aug. 18-20, 2000 at the 82nd Annual Crow Fair and Rodeo in Crow Agency, Mont. Crow Fair is located south of Billings along the Little Big Horn River, just a short distance from the site of Custer's defeat.
Crow Fair is just about as authentic pre-U.S. American Indian as can be achieved in today's world. The site has earned a reputation as the tipi capitol of the world. It is a great honor to be selected as host drum for such an event, and it speaks about the reputation of Mandaree.
Mandaree has been performing for over 50 years. The current group members are Clement Baker Sr., senior group member, Alfred Morsette Jr., Sidrick Baker, Leonard Baker, Fred Morsette, John Bearstail, Lloyd Top Sky, Merle Tendoy, Charles Eagle Speaker, Stan Pretty Paint, Mike LaFromboise and Keveon Kingbird.
"Originally, speaking for my family, our singing heritage comes from our grandfather, Young Bear, of the Hidatsa tribe," said Clement Baker in an interview with Indian House founder Tony Isaacs. "He was noted by the people for his outstanding singing ability and his sharp memory for recalling old-time grass dance songs of the tribe. I and my brothers are the third generation of singers from our grandfather Young Bear, and now Bill's sons are the forth generation."
The Mandaree singers make their homes in Mandaree, N.D. The town got its name when the U.S. government built the Garrison dam across the Missouri River in 1946 and flooded nearly a quarter of the Fort Berthold reservation. Residents were forced to relocate once more. They named their town from the combined names of the tribes Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikaree (commonly know as the Three Affiliated Tribes.)
"Mandaree, Live from Crow Fair" was released this year by Indian House. The CD's 14 tracks are predominantly grass dance songs.
Mandaree has released at least two other albums. "Mandaree Singers Vol.1, Mandan-Hidatsa Songs" and "Vol.2, Pow-Wow Songs" are both available on Canyon Records.
Most Indian House recordings are made live on location. Indian House has a reputation as a label committed to high-quality recordings of traditional American Indian music. Exceptional performances combined with informative liner notes are the hallmarks of its recordings.
Issacs believes in natural sound for recording traditional American Indian music. No reverberation, synthesizers or sound effects are added to the original recording.
"There are two ways to get Indian music out to the world audience," said Isaacs. "One way is to modernize the music to make it accessible to people with non-traditional ears. The other way is to encourage people to improve their ears and come over to where the music is. Traditional American Indian music is good just the way it is. It doesn't need to be mixed with anything. For the people who want it, it's here, but they have to make the trip."
To learn more about Indian House visit www.indianhouse.com or write to Indian House, Box 472, Taos, N.M. 87571.