Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One night on the way to Casa Grande Ruins fest.

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This time last year I was performing at the Sundance Film Festival. Though I’m not there this year my music is included in the instrumental CD that goes into every official gift bag at the festival. I’m thrilled. Instead this year I’ll be returning to the Casa Grande Ruins American Indian Music Festival in Coolidge, Arizona. The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument preserves an Ancient Sonoran Desert People farming community and "Great House." Created as the nation’s first archeological reserve in 1892, the site was declared a National Monument in 1918. It is an anomaly in the Phoenix valley. Butted against the sprawl it in a place so developed it is a protected 472.5 acres. Estimates say the Casa Grande (The Big House) was established around 1350 CE. Many tribes in the southwest and Mexico claim some relation to the ruins. Read the information at http://www.nps.gov/cagr/historyculture/the-ancient-sonoran-desert-people.htm for some insight.

According to the website, http://www.desertusa.com/ind1/du_peo_hoh.html:
The Hohokam were creative artisans who became famous for their intricate work with shells obtained from the Gulf of California and the Pacific coast. They created a coiled pottery finished with a paddle and painted with red designs. They retained a great deal of Mesoamerican influence as can be seen in their use of ball courts and decorative feathers. They also became entrepreneurs in a thriving trade with their neighbors, the Anasazi and the Mogollon. Their fate is unclear, but they seem to have disappeared from the archeological record between the first half of the 15th century and the time when the Spanish first came upon their descendents, Pima-speaking Indians still using the ancient irrigation techniques. Some of their original irrigation canals are still being used in the Phoenix area today!
But truthfully cultures never fit into the templates of archaeologists or researchers. Cultures are dynamic, human, emotional, spiritual and driven by motives we don’t understand. I think that if a people felt secure enough to build a huge house and permanent village they were doing something right with their neighbors. My own ancestors were Mesoamericans much like the Hohokam are said to be. They roamed through the Yucatan, northern Mexico and the southwest trading, hunting, running from enemies and sometimes living among other tribes. This festival is unique in that it is held in a National Monument so the feel is decidedly not as commercial as some festivals. I’ve been honored to perform for the Centennial Celebration of the Gila Cliff Dwellings and in Antelope Canyon. What is so unique to me is that when you play in a place like Casa Grande Ruins of the Gila Cliff Dwellings, the real star is the monument itself. When we performed last year right next to the Big House ruin the sense of humility and honor is something none of us couldn’t help feeling. A reverence for ancestors and what they sacrificed that we are here now enjoying prosperity, regular meals and a warm roof overhead is part of the Indian and Mestizo cultures of which I’m both. Not to say this is unique to these cultures, but it is significant. In tracking down my own history I had to look in unconventional places as my own parents weren’t told about their ancestry in part to help them assimilate into American society by severing their more ethnic ties. I understand. They were punished for speaking Spanish and had the spelling of their names changed. It still frustrates me when I get asked about my last name as if it should be “Sings with Wolves” or “Gonzales de la Luna.” The selective ignorance of how acculturation happens to people means I don’t have to explain anything and don’t. There are these places called Libraries where you can learn things. Amazing. In my own quest I had to research as much about the migrations, Diasporas, accounts of Spanish Monks, archeological writings and eventually a DNA test to confirm things. Even then, since there weren’t exactly a Census of Indians a thousand years ago and the Dawes Rolls are limited to only a handful of tribes I’m still learning more with every relative I speak with. They aren’t always willing to remember.

All this is to say that when I am playing at the Gila Cliff Dwellings or Casa Grande Ruins I spend quiet time beforehand literally listening for what the ancestors have to say, try to connect with them. How I do that is between them and me. If you know anything about mitochondria, DNA and RNA you understand how experiences are passed generation to generations adding to the collective cellular memory. What else is passed down I often wonder? Are dreams, hopes, wonder, sadness the awe at seeing an eclipse or a blood-red sunrise all part of that soup? I don’t know. I do, however, feel obligated to challenge myself and express myself without censor and as fully as my skills and abilities allows. I never feel the need to preach, politicize or have an agenda through my music. Knowing how every person listening brings their own experience to it I try and rehearse, practice, structure, be interesting, entertaining and then just get the heck out of the way. Please stop by my booth if you attend the Casa Grande fest. where I’ll have my music, some beautiful flutes and my hand-crafted massage oil blends and plenty of smiles. I am glad I will see musicians I've had the pleasure of working with like Gabriel Ayala, Scott August, Loren Russel among others. I will miss not having Michael Graham Allen to share coffee and the stage with and especially Alan Stanz, a wonderful musician and the park ranger whose passion got the 1st festival off the ground last year. He has moved to another position. The staff still there like Carol West, Dave Winchester and the crew and volunteers are more than capable and know where the coffee pot is--and isn't that what's really important?

Check the website for more info. http://www.nps.gov/cagr/planyourvisit/american-indian-music-fest.htm


Here is schedule of performers. I’ll be on the main stage Sat. 1PM and Sun. 4PM as well as the Sat. night Performer’s Jam, weather permitting. There will be an open-mic stage both days in the parking lot area where the vendor booths are set up. Hope to see you there.
January 30-31, 2010
Exact performance times will not be announced, as some times will need to be adjusted during each session. The schedule indicates the day and session in which musicians will perform and the order in which they are scheduled.
Saturday, January 30
Afternoon Session -- 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Opening Invocation by O’odham Elder
ROTC Presentation of Colors
Barnaby Lewis and River People Basket Dancers
Travis Terry, Native American Flute
Randy Granger, Native American Flute, Hang Drum
Nathalie Picard, Flute Player/Storyteller
Cynthia Johnson and Hashan-kehk Dancers
Loren Russell, Native American Flute Player and Story Teller

Evening Session -- 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Alex Maldonado, Native American Flute
Flavio Martinez, South American Panpipe Flute
Gabriel Ayala, Classical Guitar
Mixed Musician Session

Sunday, January 31
Full Session -- 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Barnaby Lewis and River People Basket Dancers
Loren Russell, Native American Flute Player and Story Teller
Scott August, Native American Flute
Gabriel Ayala, Classical Guitar
Nathalie Picard, Flute Player/Storyteller
Randy Granger, Native American Flute, Hang Drum
Travis Terry, Native American Flute

Here is a video of Michael Graham Allen and I playing at the Native Rhythms
Festival last November. Since he won't be at CG this year this will have to suffice.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Advice from a Road Scholar

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Recently, a musician, writer and film-producer from San Antonio, TX was found sealed in the trunk of his burned to a crisp car he named “Linda” about 17 miles from where I live. Adam Espinoza, 20, was going west, so to speak, to renew his life, his passions and his dreams. He posted on Facebook, Dec. 30;
"Although this year may have had more stress than we could handle, whether it be from work, or school, or heartbreak, we mustn't dwell on them. Let us tie up any loose ends we may have left, and enter the New Year, nay, the new decade, with enthusiasm. Let us see life through a new perspective, Let us live life with love and compassion, and let life take us where it may." He never made it. Someone insensitively wrote on the Las Cruces Sun-News page that he probably committed suicide; most people’s capacity for denial being their strongest emotion. It’s mid January and I’m planning my own tours and travels. They will take me tens of thousands of mile by auto, plane and mass transit from Albuquerque to Florida. Arizona to Wisconsin, Illinois, Austin, San Antonio, Utah. This being only January I know my calendar will fill up and I’m grateful. Nonetheless, Adam’s murder reminds me that violence is real and a possibility and sometimes you do nothing more than exist to tempt an already intolerant, angry or strung out person to want to limit your freedom—hurt you or kill you. I go on the assumption that people are basically nice and want to be left alone to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be, as much as the next person. As I travel alone mostly, drive 9-12 hour days, stay in unfamiliar places I make sure I’m as aware as my last cup of Gas Station coffee allows, of everything going on around me. I try to not put myself in situations I know can turn volatile. Having played in many, many a bar, club, dive, party etc. I know what to look for. Fortunately I don’t need to play in these places any more.

In a climate where people will give you physical grief for a bumper sticker I’ve learned what so many women, differently colored skin than Band-Aid people already know. The less attention you call to yourself the less violence you’re likely to encounter. Truth be told the most threatening places are the little gas stations that serve as the de facto community centers in many rural, off the interstate, places. You walk in and there is a woman behind the counter with teased bleached blonde hair and way too much make up. She is talking with about 5 rather stout guys all gathered round “shooting the shit” as they say. So you get some tea or a Starbuck’s Frappe and take it to the cash register. There are cards and signs for Deer skinning or ammo loading. They get a chance to completely scrutinize you like those body scanners. If there is anything about you that threatens them they will start to giggle and you can feel the tension rise. I always look at them and ask directions or talk about the weather. Sometimes it works sometimes it don’t. I was in a Whataburger (a place I no longer go) and ordered some food. I gave the cashier my name, Randy. I noticed a table of 3 good-ole boys giggling and saying under their breath, “Raaaannnndddeeeee.” I got tense and decided to ignore it. It went from Randy to “Randy is a fag. Randy is gay.” I just laughed to myself. Looking different, and attractive if I might add, has its price and I’m used to attention. But they were giggling so hard the other customer and staff noticed. I thought, fuck this. What is this high school all over again? So I went to the counter and ordered 3 Strawberry shakes. I waited till they were done and took them to their table. I said, “You guys looked thirsty. Enjoy.”

I know they could have chased after me and kicked my ass. I guarantee they would have not walked away unscathed. The point it is could have been anyone. I don’t take anything personally. Black musicians, punks, blues etc. etc. have all gone through this shit at the Waffle House. Certain people just need someone or something to be against. I see right through people. My intuition and perception is keen, strong and highly developed. I see through the friends on Facebook who passive aggressively challenge my manhood or sexuality. Love it. Keep em guessing and let them read your fan’s posts. A musician’s persona and personality will always be in question. We shred the envelopes so many are inside. It’s not arrogance, its confidence. A deep self-belief that supports us regardless is what sustains what we do. It sustains me as well as a compelling drive to create, to work all the time, to distill some of this creativity that is flowing through me like an unbridled waterfall. Adam Espinosa told his family a car was following him since about 100 east of the New Mexico/Texas border. Having been through that area I think I know exactly how it went down. I’m hoping it won’t happen to me, but if it does there will be scars on my attackers deep as the Rio Grande Gorge. I’m not fearful of anyone but am always willing to flee first. My hands are way more important to me than leaving a mark. Adam said in his last post; "I am ready start over with a clean slate! California, here I come! I love every one of y'all! I will see you guys in the summer (I hope)!" Hope. Hope is a fragile thread but reinforced with gold.

Artists living their life in fear should take a job at the AutoZone or work for the city instead. You can’t be afraid of danger. You can be aware and do some things that to me are common sense like:

 Don’t advertise you are a musician for god’s sake. Take off the bumper stickers of all the music stores and manufacturers and don’t put a sign that says: “musician on board.” I’ve seen it.
 Cover your instruments and gear with a beat-up old blanket.
 Dress like a college student and not Ani di Franco when you go into the McDonalds to bathe.
 Don’t post every stop and place you are at on Facebook, twitter etc. Do it afterwards.
 Don’t say how much money you made at a gig tonight on the above sites.
 Only drink bottled beer or water at a gig and keep it close. I’ve had more stuffed slipped to me at bar gigs…. Luckily I automatically throw up everything that doesn’t agree with me.
 Never, ever part with your gear! I don’t care whose boyfriend of the venue owner’s girlfriends’ brother they say they are.
 Criminals are most likely people who look like you. Not the other color.
 If there is a group of people in the hotel parking lot, take your gear in later when there aren’t any.
 Don’t tell the night clerk everything about you. They are underpaid and often work with friends and guess what? That electro key they made for you can be copied in a sec.
 When you stop to get gas, go somewhere else for grub okay. I split my stops up because when you stay in one spot too long you let your guard down and criminals have time to size you and your car up. I’ve had people come up to me on one side and ask for directions while the other tried to open my back door. I always lock it and always say oh man I don’t know. Maybe they’ll know inside…. What I’ve learned is pleading ignorance works wonders.
 Always trust your intuition. It’s been around about 300,000 years.

Be careful out there but never be in fear. You are not an accident and neither is your music.
Much love

Some of the information for this Blog was gathered from the Las Cruces Sun-News by reporter Ashley Meeks.