TUPELO – In the proper hands, the Native American flute has the power to soothe frayed nerves.
“I love to pare it down and play one note in a way that moves people, in a way that puts people in that sacred space,” John Two-Hawks said during a phone interview. “I also love adding the power of a cello string section with a heavy tribal drum and traditional powwow singing in the background. I like music with energy and power, too.”
Two-Hawks will bring both types of music when he performs at Tupelo’s Link Center on Saturday.
“When people think of the Native American flute, they think of a guy sitting in the woods on a rock and playing a little tune for the birds,” he said. “That’s cool, and the flute still does live there, but if you come to one of my concerts, expect more than that, expect much more than that.”
A Lakota Sioux, Two-Hawks was born into a musical family on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Both of his grandfathers had played a variety of instruments, and that talent showed itself in Two-Hawks at a young age.
“I began playing guitar when I was 6. I don’t even remember it, actually,” he said. “My father came into the room and said I was playing three chords. I guess I picked it up from watching him.”
In addition to the Native American flute, Two-Hawks plays the guitar, piano, synthesizer, mandolin and others. He’s also a singer. With help from previously recorded tracks, he’ll be an expansive one-man band when he comes to Tupelo.
“All of the music that goes with my flute and voice that I do in the studio is included in the concert through the magic of tracks,” he said. “People get to hear the whole musical experience.”
There’s a message to his music that pulls from Native American traditions. That’ll be integrated with a sense of showmanship, he said.
“I am every bit a performer, and I take a lot of time and put a lot of effort into creating a multi-faceted, multi-media concert experience,” he said. “There are lights. There’s all kinds of special effects. There’s video.”
And there will be times when all of the extras are stripped away, leaving Two-Hawks and his flute, he said, “to bring people back to the purity of the instrument and what it means.”
Traditional, indigenous music is a circular experience, he said.
“It goes round and round and round,” he said. “You end the song when you decide to, when you feel it’s time. A lot of times, the ending of Native American music could very well be the beginning.”
Whether he plays restful music or energetic, Two-Hawks said the result for the audience should be a journey back to basic things that all people have in common.
“It speaks to something inside all of us,” he said. “It speaks to a place that’s close to the earth, close to the ground, that comes from ancient times.
“It speaks about our ancestors, all of our ancestors, wherever we come from. You look back far enough in all cultures, and we all come from the earth.
“My hope always when I perform is people will come away from the event feeling better, more balanced and having more sense of purpose for themselves than when they came.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
M. SCOTT MORRIS / NEMS Daily Journal