2016 Hot List: The top four hottest selling drum groups
Northern Cree is among our 2016 Hot List: The top four hottest selling drum groups

Can’t Go Wrong with These Four Drum Groups: 2016 Hot List

Vincent Schilling

There is little argument in Indian country that Canyon Records is the pre-eminent drum group recording company, one that has been bringing traditional Native music to Indian country for generations, so what better source for a hot list? Here are Canyon’s top-selling drum group recordings of all-time.

Northern Cree – The Beat That Can’t Be Beat

Courtesy Canyon Records

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in Indian country who hasn’t heard the explosive voices and hard pounding drum beat of Northern Cree. This six-time Grammy nominee was formed in 1982, and the story of that, according to Canyon, goes like this: The group was founded when the Wood brothers of Saddle Lake, Alberta, Canada, traveled to Lapwai, Idaho, to compete in a stick game tournament. Their first night there, they lost all their funds in the tournament and found themselves unable to get home. The only way they could earn enough money to get home was to sing at the pow wow the following day, and they decided to sing some of the many songs they had learned from their father and uncles. One brother borrowed a drum from a local museum to lay down a beat as they sang. When the arena director asked the name of the group, they looked down at the faded words “Northern Cree” written on the drum and gave that as their drum group name.

Stay Red, by Northern Cree - Courtesy Canyon Records

Thus, the Northern Cree Singers began a career that has made them one of the most respected and influential groups on the pow wow trail. They have released 36 recordings over their 22 years with Canyon Records. Their recordings have won numerous awards, including multiple Nammys (Native American Music Awards), Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, Aboriginal Peoples’ Music Choice Awards and Indian Summer Music Awards.


Young Spirit – The Forever Young Award

Young Spirit - YouTube

Young Spirit originally came together as a group of friends with a desire to represent their western Canadian Plains Cree culture. Considering the genuine passion that flows from the drums and hearts in this group, it is no wonder ”From the Heart” has long been one of Canyon’s top sellers. Led by Jacob Faithful, Young Spirit was formed in the summer of 2001, at a pow wow in Hobbema, Alberta, but now have singers from all over Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC, Arizona and California. They’ve recorded four albums with Canyon, including Takakikeh, Save Me a Lead and  Akameyimoh-Baby Boy.

Young Spirit - From the Heart, Canyon Records

Cree Confederation – Smokin’ Blend of Old & New

Cree Confederation - YouTube

“Wherever we travel, we represent the Cree people of the Treaty Six areas,” says Cree Confederation on the Canyon website. “It is with humble regard that we share the music and language of their grandfathers with a style that is a hybrid of Original and Contemporary style of singing. Singing is our way of expression, our chosen way of sharing and spreading the beauty that is our Indian music.” The group has recorded four albums with Canyon, including their top selling Kihtawasoh Wapakwani “Beautiful Flower,” Pakosiyimitan, Horse Dance (NAMA nominee for Best Pow-Wow Album) and Piciciwin.

Cree Confederation - Kihtawasoh Wapakwani / Beautiful Flower - Canyon Records

The Black Lodge Singers – Great Excuse to be Kidding Around

Black Lodge Singers - Courtesy Canyon Records

The Black Lodge Singers are one of the most respected northern style drum groups on the pow wow circuit, highly in demand as a host drum throughout the United States and Canada. The Black Lodge Singers are Kenny Scabby Robe (Blackfeet), his wife Louise (Yakima), and his 12 sons. One of the biggest factors in their success is that they connect their music so well to children. Canyon boasts that their songs, “make kids of all ages laugh and get up and dance.” Some of their more popular titles include: Ask Your Mom for 50 Cents, Flintstones, Hakuna Matata and Bunny Hop. With over 20 albums on the Canyon label, the group has garnered a slew of Grammy nominations.

Black Lodge Singers - Kids' Pow Wow Songs - Courtesy Canyon Records

Follow ICTMN’s A&E editor Vincent Schilling on Twitter – @VinceSchilling

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