"It's pronounced like "arrogant," without the 't', " smiles Kickapoo musician Arigon Starr. "People often mispronounce my name, but they never forget it!"
Proud, vivacious and full of energy, Arigon Starr continues to defy the odds of making a success in the music business. Her debut CD, MEET THE DIVA earned an enthusiastic response from Native, college and community radio stations - and a prestigious Native American Music Award for "Best Independent Recording."
Arigon's blend of pop, rock, country, punk and funk reflect her upbringing as a military "brat." "We pulled up stakes about every two years while I was going to school," she said. "There's an old country song that tells the story of a person who's been 'everywhere, man' and that describes my life. I was born in Florida and have spent time in Memphis, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California - you name it." The eclectic mix of scenery, music and people helped form her unique approach to contemporary Native American music. "The music must serve the song - and help tell the story. Taking elements of different styles of music and mixing them up seems to me to be the most natural thing in the world."
Musical storytelling is one of Arigon's fortés. In 2001, The Native American Music Awards chose Junior Frybread, from her second release WIND-UP as the Song of the Year. "Accepting that award was a personal triumph for me," she smiled. "When I made the decision to leave my corporate job and become a full-time musician, I knew that I would make it on the strength of my songwriting. There are so many stories left untold in Native America. I feel honored to be a voice for the people."
Arigon tells her "stories" as a performing musician on stages across the world, appearing on diverse stages nationwide, among them New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Las Vegas, London and Los Angeles. She certainly hasn't ignored her Native audiences with appearances on the Hopi and Navajo reservations in Arizona, at the Cherokee Homecoming in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon and at the Milwaukee Indian Summer Festival.
It was on the road that she befriended country group BR549, who perform on several tracks of BACKFLIP. "Those boys are my very unlikely musical soulmates. I grew up listening to the kind of music they play, which is country music from the 50's and 60's. It was the first time ever that my dad and I liked the SAME band," she laughed. "It turned out that one of the band members, Chuck Mead, had gone to school with my cousin in Lawrence, Kansas. We instantly bonded over that - and trying to determine who was the most hardcore Beatles fan. Chuck has got me beat on that." Don Herron (fiddle, pedal steel, mandolin and banjo) adds a "down-home" feeling to several of the tracks, while vocalist Gary Bennett wraps his warm, soulful tenor voice around Arigon's music - especially the stunning "Mountain Windsong." "Gary is probably one of the most amazing harmony singers I've ever heard. What he does is instinctive and from the heart. You won't find too many singers like him," said Arigon.
Returning from Arigon's previous CD projects are drummer Nicholas Peters (California's Luiseño Tribe), lead guitarist Jeff Ruiz and engineer/keyboardist Ben Moore. Making his first appearance on a Arigon release is bassist Tyler Grant.
Two recently published books continue the legend of the Diva, Arigon Starr. We The People: Of Earth And Elders II, by author/photographer Serle Chapman features a beautiful portrait of Arigon taken at Albuquerque's Petroglyph National Monument. The Encyclopedia of Native American Music, by Canadian author and radio host Brian Wright-McLeod includes Arigon's significant contributions to the genre.
Performed with love, humor, skill and compassion - Arigon Starr's music continues to make bold strides into the future. "This is my most personal release yet. It's funny how you have to sometimes go back in order go forward. That's what BACKFLIP is all about."
About the Songs:
I have always had fun listening to all formats of music on the radio. Often, a DJ will forget to back announce a cool tune....and you're left wondering "Who the heck was that?" I've heard this has actually happened with some of my songs on the radio, so I decided to share my experience. The DJ in this song bears a striking resemblance to Keith Richards, the guitarist from the Rolling Stones. I'm afraid to actually meet him, because I fear we might become inseparable!
I'll Be Around
It has always bothered me that most films about Indian people end with the entire tribe being wiped out. Those images stick in the minds of the general public, so much so that some people have remarked to me, "Gee, are there still Indians living here?" Like, DUH!
An homage to all of my friends who are from California based tribes. You might have to check this, but I believe California is the state with the largest Indian population in America. All the tribes mentioned in the songs are REAL ones - and they are from all over the state. California is more than surfers, Hollywood and new agers --- it's Indian Country!
Cherokee Historian and Western Spur award-winning writer Robert J. Conley has written many books in his time. One my personal favorites is Mountain Windsong, which tells the story of Oconeechee and Waguli, two Cherokee lovers who are separated by the Trail of Tears. His book not only weaves a wonderful tale - it gives a heartbreakingly, historically accurate account of the Trail and how it devastated the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole and Chickasaw people. As my ancestors walked this trail, I can't even imagine the pain they went through. However, I know they did survive, as did thousands of others. I will always be grateful to them! Don Herron, Chuck Mead and Gary Bennett from BR549 add their considerable talents to this track.
I Think You're Alright
When you're a young person, it's often tough to be different. Yet, there are a lot of individuals out there who have the courage to "be themselves." I was one of those people! I had my time of colored hair and thrift store clothes. Being different really builds character and strength and I hope that folks of all ages listening to this track will have a little extra courage to be unique.
Another complaint from Indian women is the lack of participation by Indian men in getting the "work" of the people done. I've heard ladies make comments like, "Whenever you see the committee of an organization trying to make changes, it's always full of women. Indian men don't seem to want to lend a hand." Now, I'm know this isn't true for ALL Indian men, but if there are any within the sound of my voice still attached to their TV sets, they need to rise up and get busy!
A tribute to our mighty friends, the salmon. Despite attempts to keep them from returning to their homes - they keep coming back. As the salmon "sings" in the chorus: I Will Come Back. No doubt about that now! Enjoy the slice of punk rock!
What's My Indian Name?
I had an interesting discussion with some Indian ladies at a conference in Las Vegas. One of the gal's pet peeve question of all time was, "I understand that's what you're called now, but what is your INDIAN name?" It's as if her given name wasn't "Indian" enough. As most Indian folks know, you don't go around speaking your "Indian" name - unless you want trouble! The laundry list of names are all friends and/or relatives of mine. It's not everyday you get to call out your pals in a song!
All For You
My Aunt Susie Alford asked me to write a song for Native veterans last summer. I was initially reluctant to do this - because I didn't really understand the experience. After lots of research, which included talking one-on-one with vets, I finally "got it." I gained a lot of respect for the sacrifices all Native people have made for this country.
My father, Ken Wahpecome, has always been an inspiration to me. He told me many stories from his younger days about how he and his brother would listen to country music on their old record player in Shawnee, Oklahoma. His love of country music was passed down to me when he played his records before we went to church on Sunday mornings. Jim Reeves, Hank Thompson, Ray Price and Hank Williams are my old friends. It was extra special to have BR549 on this track. All the events in the song are true - my dad still has his old vinyl albums. Between my daddy's records and mine, we could start a radio station or one killer collectible store!
We lose far too many good people too soon - either from disease, abuse or tragedy. I especially feel for families and friends who have lost loved ones from suicide or AIDS. I have - and it sure does hurt. BR549 Chuck Mead adds a really haunting guitar solo here.
The Pow-Wow Trail
This is the story of one sad pow-wow dancer. Whenever I've been to a pow-wow, I've wondered what the lives of the singers and dancers must be like. They move house and home from place to place for months on end...then I realized they're just like me! Always on the road.
This Life Is Mine
I took the phrase "In beauty I walk" from my Navajo friends. They describe this as walking in balance - which is something that is I strive to do each day. I also included this track, which was written in my early coffeehouse days, for the fans who have been asking me for a long while to include a solo acoustic track on one of my records.
Edith Keeler Must Die
Edith Keeler is a character from the original Star Trek series. In an episode written by Harlan Ellison (a very famous science fiction writer), Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock have to travel back in time to rescue Dr. McCoy - who has fatally altered the timeline of Earth by saving the life of social worker Edith Keeler. Played by actress Joan Collins - it's all classic Trek! Kirk, of course, falls in love with her then realizes he was to let her die in order to save all mankind. This episode was recently named in TV Guide's Top Ten of all Star Trek related shows. It's unforgettable! Don Herron really fires this up with his amazing fiddle work.
Share The Road
This is my dream for Native America. We'll all walk the Red Road together and change the world, one step at a time. Some folks don't know what a C.D.I.B card is. To clarify, it's a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, which are issued by separate tribes in the Lower 48. The cards can only be issued by "Federally Recognized Tribes," which leaves a lot of people out of the picture. I feel those cards have been used to divide and conquer our people for a long time!
The Eagle Flies High
This is an account of two important lives. My uncle Gene Alford, a decorated Loyal Shawnee World War II veteran and former Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller. Both were leaders in their communities in Oklahoma - and had a great impact on my life. I hope to follow their example and soar like an eagle. It's also a Beatles-fanatics dream track. Spot the references to classic Beatles songs as you listen through!
BACKFLIP is the third CD from Native American Music Award winner, Arigon Starr. Her musical trip through time brings a fresh perspective on being Native in a brand new century.
Contact: Janet Miner/Wacky Productions Unlimited