Sarah & Tall Paul | The Sound of Home (Episode 6) | The PlainStory Podcast | NET Nebraska
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Sarah & Tall Paul | The Sound of Home (Episode 6) | The PlainStory Podcast | NET Nebraska

October 25, 2019


(mellow music) ♪ Yeah, check it, check it ♪ ♪ Spectatin’ Jin debilitatin’
chins on television ♪ ♪ Cousin tape recording
bars pacing in the kitchen ♪ ♪ Commenced penning written’s
prior to my new religion ♪ ♪ Being present yellow belly
fella smellin’ Nelly’s vision ♪ ♪ Similar in age to Dave
when he first hit the stage ♪ ♪ Imagine camera flash capacity
crowds and loving fame ♪ ♪ But I can’t empathize what’s
real I cannot simulate ♪ ♪ What’s your answer to
an exec’s question? ♪ ♪ How much can you take? ♪ – You know, through the whole
journey of this podcast, I’ve been looking for
the places where music and home interact. The places where art
and culture intersect. Of course, there isn’t
a cookie cutter answer. When I hear this: ♪ I’m in a Buick going
to protest a mascot ♪ – I have to think about my own discomfort with my own home. ♪ First Ave Star ♪ ♪ Tall Paul in black ♪ Listening is the secret
to great conversations, to life changing conversations. Even if those conversations take you to some slightly uncomfortable territory. I’ve been there before. Nothing wrong with a little discomfort. ♪ his past stature resemble mannequins ♪ And I’m learning sometimes
the way through discomfort is to just sit and listen. (birds chirping) (pan flute whistling) This sound is intimate. It isnt’ big, it isn’t 110
decibels of an outdoor show, but it comes from the
same point of inspiration. (pan flute whistling) Both are meditative in their own way. Both say listen to me. (pan flute whistling) That’s Sarah Rowe. She’s a Nebraska artist,
healer and performer and she was kind enough to
share this flute song with me. You may recall, I’ve
been playing the flute since I was four and Sarah’s
is a beautiful wooden flute that kind of reminds me of the
flute Hassan Anziad gave me. Check out our website for
pictures of them both. Before she played the flute for me though, Sarah got out her other tools for me. And yes, I’m giving a
shout out to Kenan Azmat in our last episode. Remember he said: – “We’ll have to hold on to the tools.” – It’s fun to carry around
a little bag of treasures. – Yeah. Right, that’s a good way to put it. (laughing) Yeah, I always say I’m
wielding a paintbrush or my cello bow those are my weapons. (laughing) – Yeah, hold onto your
tools or your weapons. Sarah’s armory is full. She uses painting,
sketching, performance art and she also works in sound when she performs healing ceremonies. Sarah has been asked to
wield her paintbrushes for the Lincoln Crossroads Music Festival. Sarah’s artwork is
entrenched with thoughts and concepts about home and place. And as a musician, she
draws on the diversity of her background. I’m eager to hear what
Sarah thinks about this, but I’m also a little bit nervous. Has music always been a part of your life as much as art or what’s
that relationship been with music in your life? – Yeah, I started with
piano when I was young. I played flute my entire life. I started teaching myself cedar flute, traditional native flute as well. I play cello as well so yeah, it all fuels my visual art. – Sarah began drawing with
black ink on white paper. Simple, small and elegant curved lines. It’s always a privilege
getting to watch someone do what they love. I asked her how she
describes herself to people. – Well, I’m a visual artist. I also do performance art
and a lot of it is rooted in Lakota ceremony inspired by that. I’m Lakota, and Ponca so I use that as kind of a spring board for
cross-cultural connection and storytelling and I
think it’s important for us to honor tradition, but also
speak in a contemporary way. – Sarah’s art for the Lincoln
Crossroads Music Festival would accompany a performance
of the “Standing Bear” contata by composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate. A work for vocalist and chamber ensemble designed to give voice
to the trials and dream “A Standing Bear”, a Ponca
chief and civil rights warrior. You’ll have the chance to hear it later. Her art on this day was just a precursor to thinking bout her work for the cantata. And again, we’ll have
pictures of both on our site. – And a lot of it is about place and these people in exile and
trying to honor their home even as its being taken away from them. And still, you know, trying to keep their community intact even though they’re being forced to move elsewhere. – This is the uncomfortable part. Now were talking about
home in a different way. This isn’t about refugees
like Hassan or Zihad coming here for refuge, now
were talking about Nebraska. You know, the place I’ve
referred to as my home about a hundred times
in this podcast already like its mine, like I own it. But this is the other
side of that refugee coin. What Sarah is talking about,
and the contata speaks to, is people who called this
place home for centuries and then were forced to give up that home. – It’s speaking to a historical event, which we don’t have really
any physical record of so a lot of it is just subjective
feeling and remembering and honoring the people
that walked that path. – Right. There isn’t a lot of physical record. Because in the 19th century,
Europeans were moving into this country at an astounding rate. Native Americans were displaced
and murdered as a result. I can feel my discomfort moving in. Sarah is talking about
events that occurred that benefited my ancestors
and now I’m doing this podcast, talking about my home,
my place in my language. My ancestors, a mish-mash
of Europeans from Slovenia, Scotland, Ireland,
England, and Germany, they benefited from U.S. policies that removed native American
Indians from their land. I have no reason to feel
awkward around Sarah, she’s warm and open and honest too. But I do feel something, its
hard to put my finger on. – It blows my mind how many
people still don’t know we’re still around and that we
are your neighbors, you know? There are a lot of misconceptions
about native people and our cultures. We think its important for
us to have uncomfortable conversations, that just helps
us all to be better humans and better neighbors. – I’m totally ready for the
uncomfortable conversation part. (both laughing) Maybe, I don’t know, its
always nerve racking I think. I really feel like, looking
back, my education was hey, there were these
pilgrims who almost starved and natives taught them how to plant corn, and now its today, like, there
was a real big gap. (laughs) – That seems to be the extent in general, not just in smaller towns,
or you know, decades ago. That’s still the case certainly
and that is a huge problem. – Mmm, mhmm. Well and its nerve racking for me because then I feel like
you get to be an adult at some point and you’re
like wait, what the, why am I missing all of this information? And it just makes me, it makes me upset it makes me uncomfortable,
it makes not even know how to start asking questions
or have a conversation, I mean, you know, if
you don’t know something you’re liable to stumble
and make a mistake and hurt someone’s feelings and I mean, I think that’s part of why I think those are uncomfortable
conversations, you know. – Right, but you can’t
let it close you off. I think staying open and just being real and curious and
authentic in your approach is better than saying nothing. – It felt good to get
that out there with Sarah. I think for so many people,
home equals comfort. And part of what makes homes comfortable are the things that feel known. That gets knocked off
kilter when we can see the unintended biases we
absorb from those homes. My education avoided the
viewpoints of other cultures. Even the ones right here,
literally people who have been and are now, my neighbors. – It is incredibly how
many people don’t know about reservations and what
life is really like there and why they exist and why
there’s such desolation on a lot of these reservations. But most native people
live in urban areas. They are literally your neighbors. And you pass them by everyday. We are survivors of genocide, but its really empowering at the same time to have a voice now even though, like some of the oldest
recordings of native people were made because they thought
that we would be gone by now. So, I think its important to
share our art and our voices. – Like her music, Sarah’s
voice and her message is calm but penetrating. Other voices demand our attention in a more pointed and urgent way. ♪ I feel the latent
effects of assimilation ♪ ♪ Innner city native raised by
bright lights and skyscrapers ♪ ♪ Born with dim prospects,
little piece in livin’ ♪ ♪ As a child, hot headed
bout the fact I wasn’t wild ♪ ♪ Like they called my ancestors ♪ ♪ Imagine what it’d be to live
nomadic off the land and free ♪ ♪ Instead I was full of heat ♪ ♪ like a furnace cause
I wasn’t furnished ♪ ♪ With language and
traditional ways of my peeps ♪ ♪ Yeah I used to feel like
I wasn’t truly indigenous ♪ ♪ Now I say miigwech gichi-manidoo ♪ ♪ For showing me my true
roots, definitely Native ♪ ♪ Take responsibility for being educated ♪ ♪My people and customs
originating from early phases ♪ ♪Of history it’s, deeper than frybread ♪ ♪And contest pow-wows, tears
shed in the sweat lodge ♪ ♪Prayers go out to all
those I’ve wronged ♪ ♪And who have wronged me
gotta treat em like family. ♪ – I want you to picture
where this is taking place. We are in donwtown Lincoln
at a public park at night. For five blocks in one direction, there’s an obstructed view of
the Nebraska state capitol. And here on a stage is
a man named “Tall Paul”. ♪obligation of revitalizing ♪ ♪Something sacred, failure to
carry through is disgracing ♪ – He’s in shorts and a tank top. His long black hair is pulled
back in a tight pony tail. He’s an imposing figure,
he’s… well, he’s tall. And he has massive shoulders and arms. He owns the stage like an
athlete owns the court. Behind him and the stage, is a
statue of Chief Standing Bear His right hand extends forward toward the stage and the audience. The words on the wall next to him read: “My hand is not the same color as yours, but if you pierce it, I shall feel pain, if you pierce your hand,
you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same God made us both. I am a man.” Picture that and hear this as Tall Paul switches between
English and Anishinaabe. ♪I gotta push the limit if
I’m gonna keep pursuing ♪ ♪So I, use it in a way that
relates to my life and vocab ♪ ♪Bring some entertainment
to it, spit it on a track ♪ ♪And I take it out the class,
can’t let what I lack ♪ ♪Become a self-defeating habit
that’ll make me want to quit ♪ ♪ Gichi-manido wiidookawishin
ji-mashkawiziyaan ♪ ♪ Mii dash bami’idiziyaan ♪ ♪ Miizhishinaam zaagi’iiwewin ♪ ♪ Ganoozh ishinaam, bizindaw ishinaam ♪ ♪ Mii-wenji nagamoyaan ♪ ♪ Nimishomis wiidookawishinaam
ji-aabajitooyaang ♪ ♪ Anishinaabe izhitwaawin ♪ ♪ Mii-ji-bi-gikendamaan keyaa
anishinaabe bimaadiziwin ♪ (applause) – Talking with Tall Paul is similar to listening to him rap,
he is straightforward. He is to the point, there
is no messing around. I asked him how to get
over the hurdle of making that first approach to someone
who you perceive as different and his answer is strikingly
similar to Sarah’s. – You know the only way to do it is just to say, you know
like, and I know like as a native person I’m open
to people asking me questions that they themselves might consider dumb but I’m like, hey man, its not your fault that this country doesn’t
educate you about me. So the only way you’re
gonna learn is to ask me. And if you think its dumb,
don’t worry about it. – Tall Paul is Anishinaabe and Oneida. And he is on a mission daily to educate people through his music. – Legality is not a
determinant of morality you know what I mean? What makes something legal in this country does not make it moral or good. – Paul has come to Lincoln
from St. Paul, Minnesota. And he wants people to
discard stereotypes. Paul was raised mostly in the city, and he lives in the city today. True to what Sarah spoke
about, he is the neighbor. Paul wasn’t born or
raised on a reservation. He lives in an urban setting. Something that is true for over seventy percent of Native Americans. And some of that is in his lyrics. ♪ Naturally we’re children of the corn ♪ ♪ Not of the hamburger, not of the pie ♪ ♪ Whoever said adults
are educators was a lie ♪ – You know its an opportunity to educate and to be bold and brave and just not bite my tongue
about anything, you know? Like I’m gonna speak my mind. For the artist, you know,
music is very releasing you know, its very liberating
whether you’re musically inclined or not, everybody listens to it pretty much so I think its a very powerful source of information regardless of what the audience looks like and there might be some
people who don’t wanna hear it but they need to hear it. – I am realizing more and more home is about the individual perspective. Discomfort comes in when
we feel we can’t relate with how our neighbors see the world. Music can help us start
the hard conversations. But it begins with taking time to listen. ♪ Can’t make American great
again ’cause it never was ♪ ♪ Founded on slavery and
genocide they some clever thugs ♪ ♪ Grounded on burial mounds
and my indigenous blood ♪ ♪ Well they erased our
history and made history up ♪ ♪ They pledge allegiance to
a symbol of culled lives ♪ ♪ Condemn you if you kneel
before a song that’s oversized ♪ ♪ Sell you a sandwich for a
dollar still that’s overpriced ♪ ♪ Because the diabetes and
disease stays on the rise ♪ ♪ You got a better chance of
seeing presidential tweets ♪ ♪ Than you do of seeing him
send Puerto Rico real relief ♪ ♪ So many Americans are really
confederates in disguise ♪ ♪ Couldn’t pick them
bottles out of a crowd ♪ ♪ Because they’re wearing stripes ♪ ♪ Since they got a problem with
us they should go back home ♪ ♪ Back to the land where sun don’t shine ♪ ♪ and cows and swine roam ♪ ♪ If they can’t honor constitutions
that their people wrote ♪ ♪ I can’t see improvement ♪ ♪ unless it means them
leaving on a boat. ♪ (Crowd cheering) – I appreciate y’all for having me.

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