Dennis Banks intention with this album is to give us a window into Native American culture. Its as though you are sitting at the fire with the nurturing Elder Dennis grew into. Listen to stories of the drum and the songs, the folktales and jokes. Learn about the important work that defined his life and empowered Indigenous Peoples the World over.
“It is sad when mistreatment, abuse, neglect and murder of Indian people becomes common. This is where it started, and this is where it is going to end. Its a good day to die" - Dennis Banks, Co-founder of the American Indian Movement, February 6th, 1973, Rapid City.
Seized upon by many to forward the hatred and fear of Native American people, those words rang loud across the land. On February 27th, 1973, the United States Government sent tanks and war planes to Wounded Knee, the sight of the first major protest organized by The American Indian Movement. From that day to his last, Dennis Banks worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Native American and all Indigenous peoples the World over.
One way to find a name for a newborn was to have the grandfather shoot an arrow into the air and then search for the place where it had come down. From the things he found there - a plant, an animal track, a rock - he picked the babies name. But Nowa-Cumig, myOjibwa name, came from Grandfather Drumbeat’s dream. The name, as he told me, means “at the center of the universe” because the land on which I was born is the place where Gichee-Manitou, the Creator, made the whole Western hemisphere from a tiny lump of earth.
I am proud of who I am. I am a “Shinabe”, an Anishinabe, from the land of the Ojibwa people, a member of one of the largest tribal nations in North America.
I was born into the Pillanger Band of our tribe. Five generations ago we had a great chief named Ogama. I am his direct descendant. One day I am going to go back and claim my inheritance. I am going back to ensure a way of life and thought which was created hundreds, or even thousands of years ago, continues. That is the responsibility that goes with being born.
My mother said that it seemed I was fighting my way out of her womb. I have been fighting ever since.”
- Dennis Banks, from “Ojibwa Warrior”.
1 At the end of the day. Dennis Banks - 02:23:50
2 Responsibility Story. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji- 01:02:13
3 Responsibility Song. Dennis Banks -01:13:04
4 Gegesha story. Dennis Banks and Michel Tyabji- 00:53:11
5 Gegesha Song. Dennis Banks- 00;48;12
6 Forty Nine Songs Story. Dennis Banks and Michel Tyabji. Drum performed by Glen Begay. 01:42:15
7 She Doesn't Love Me Anymore Story. Dennis Banks and Michel Tyabji- 01:05:08
8 She Doesnt Love me Anymore Song. Dennis Banks-03:23:12
9 Im From Minnesota Story. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji - 00:52:05
10 Im From Minnesota. Dennis Banks - 02:07:14
11 One Eyed Ford. Dennis Banks- 01:54:07
12 Hollywood. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 01:15:08
13 The AIM Song Story - Dennis Banks and Michel Tyabji- 01:48:01
14 AIM Song. Dennis Banks- 03:23:11.
15 Why AIM was Formed. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 07:51:05
16 The B Side Story. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 00:58:07
17 The B Side Song. Dennis Banks. 01:45:22
18 Alcatraz. Dennis Banks. 05:48:05
19 The Warrior Song Story. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 00:46:04
20 The Warrior Song. Dennis Banks. 01:23:04
21 Thanks for Coming Out. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 00:48:29
22 The Hospital. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 02:55:08- (Take out?)
23 Chinupa. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 02:13:20
24 Hoksila. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. Piano performed by Terry McCaw 03:17:26
25 The Boy Became the Teacher. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 04:49:08
26 Spirit Plate. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 03:53:02.
27 How to Greet A Stranger. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 03:49:09
28 Hero's. Dennis Banks, Michel Tyabji. 01:05:29
29 Spiritual. Michel Tyabji. 03:23:02 - (TAKE OUT?)
30 Leech Lake. Dennis Banks. 02:09:27
In 2009 I got the job to score and mix “A Good Day to Die”. The film is about Dennis Banks. I think the Producer and Director choose me because of my collaborative nature, International outlook and natural affinity with the drum.
My first step was to invite Dennis to stay with me. I wanted to hang out as much as possible so I could catch a vibe - I had a lot to learn. I wanted to record Dennis singing and drumming as much as possible because I wanted to use his voice in the score as much as possible. A good example of that is “Hero’s”. I made the music for that track based on Dennis singing “Leech Lake”.
His stay was life changing (for me). Aside from hosting one of the most important modern figures, from eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with him, from spending hours listening to songs and stories, from driving Dennis (in my cargo van) to his incredible friends homes to sing (the Big Drum he travels with needed a cargo van)- aside from all of that, there was a constant flow of visitors, many wearing full on regalia. One afternoon a Medicine Woman came by. She and her son brought herbs form the local hills. We spread them out on the living room floor to sort. We then cleaned, cooked or steeped them. In fact, the sage tea Dennis mentions in “Minnesota Song Story” was one of the gifts this Medicine Woman’s brought by. It turned out that the Medicine Woman’s son was a good singer, so I ended up recording him too. He sang about Grandfather in Ha Tsa. We put that song in the movie. Dennis invited Glen Begay who played a drum in a way I didn’t know existed. That sound is all over the film as well. Glen can be heard on “The 49 Song Story” and “The Boy Who Became the Teacher”.
Dennis sang a lot of songs in the studio and invited friends by to sing more. I think Dennis became very comfortable at our place and in our studio. I recorded everything and spent the next six months working with those recordings, immersing myself in the feeling. Whatever music I made for the film was directly influenced by Dennis.
One morning Dennis got into the studio and started telling stories, telling jokes and just let loose. It was a very special few hours and I recorded everything. Before we parted ways, I expressed to Dennis that I planned on making a sound track album for the film. He said something like “naaa, lets make a comedy album”!
In early 2019 I got the head space to begin work on the “A Good Day to Die” sound track album. My plan was to use dialog and score from the film, much like I did for the “Dalai Lama Renaissance” soundtrack album. While scouring through the hard drives, I came across that morning session where Dennis let loose.
I understood then that Dennis’ free flow that morning was the album. It had everything. He sang and explained all the important songs. He told jokes and stories leading one to understand the depth of the pressures forced upon his culture. All I had to do was select and add score from the film. I did write some new stuff, I made adjustments and re-arrangements, so its not exactly the same music. Dennis jokes gave me an opportunity to let loose as a sound designer too. At first I though there would be sound design for only the comedy. But I ended up adding sound design to everything.
On a personal level, my intention with this album is to be a small part of making sure Dennis’ voice and leadership lives on in todays Zeitgeist. On a professional level, I need to make sure that our collective work is honored.
To these ends, I present Nowa Cumig - Dennis Banks, At the Center of the Universe. Rest in Power.
”A Good Day to Die“ film, funded by Yoche Dehe Winton Nation.
My Sincere Thanks to Tashina Banks Rama,Hoksila Banks and Takeo Koshikawa for the Artwork and full on support for this album and for allowing us to use excerpts from the book “Ojibwa Warrior”.
Makers of “A Good Day to Die” film.
Forty Nine Songs Story“
“The Boy Became the Teacher”
Miigwech Nowa Cumig.