Monday, January 26, 2009
“Milky Way,” Joy Harjo’s multi-talented world
by Bill Nevins ALBUQUERQUE ARTS
Award-winning poet, singer-songwriter,
sax master and UNM creative writing
teacher, Joy Harjo redefines the term
multi-tasking. With her bands Poetic
Justice and the current Joy Harjo Band,
she is viewed internationally as a major
voice of Native America.
Harjo’s much-anticipated new CD,
“Winding through the Milky Way,”
produced by Larry Mitchell, will be
released in September.
In a July interview, albuquerqueARTS
asked Joy about this new recording and
her performance plans.
JH: This is the realization of what
I was working through in my last CD,
“Native Joy for Real.” Many of the tunes
are songs that are part of one of my new
projects, a one-woman-show with a band,
“Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning
Light,” which will be produced in
albuquerqueARTS: You’ve mastered
spoken word, print, music. Do you enjoy
any one of these forms more than others?
JH: Th e play “Wings of Night Sky,
Wings of Morning Light” is the place
where all of this can come together. I
think of all these forms as one expression.
I also photograph. Each project has a
spirit. I want this album to communicate
to listeners in a way that is beautiful and
revolutionary. Singing was the first voice I employed.
I love to sing, as did my mother.
albuquerqueARTS: Do you prefer to
perform with a band?
JH: I like having company on stage.
Solo is all right, too. With a band I stay
with the standard rock set up: guitar,
keyboard, bass and drums. My current set
up is Larry Mitchell, the amazing guitar
giant, Howard Cloud on bass, amazing,
Robert Muller on keyboards. Steven
Alvarez, on drums and native voice, who
also performs with Medicine Dreams, an
Alaska band. Right now I call the band,
“Joy Harjo and the Arrow Dynamics
Band.” It’s not the right name, yet.
albuquerqueARTS: Do you see your
work as political in some sense?
JH: Everything is political, whether
you choose to see it that way or not. I’ve
weathered fi erce tribal politics, canoe
club politics, music, poetry, and anything
you do out there as group politics. With
whatever you say or do you are making a
stand, one way or the other.
albuquerqueARTS: You travel often
between your home in Hawaii and your
teaching work in New Mexico. What role
does travel play in your artistic awareness
and in your writing?
JH: Some of us move more vertically
in the world. We stay in one place and
go deep. Others, like me, move more
horizontally. We go out and bring back
new ideas, synthesis, change.
albuquerqueARTS: Do you see a
separate Indian Country culture outside
the United States culture? What about
the crossing of borders and boundaries,
politically and culturally?
JH: I’ve always called the U.S. culture
the “over-culture” and don’t consider it a
true culture. Beliefs, social institutions,
arts and traditions construct culture. The
U.S. is made up of many cultures. There is
no such thing as a melting pot. There are
various cultural streams that are renewed,
slowed, cut off , or otherwise changed. The
over-culture is a culture of buying and
albuquerqueARTS: What thoughts
do you have for young and new writers
JH: Those who write are assisting in
constructing the next world, the next
consciousness. Study with all parts of
your being, not just your intellect. Always
allow yourself to be surprised. And, write.