Pinon fourth-grader defends solo singing title
By Shondiin Silversmith
ROCK POINT, Ariz., February 7, 2013
(Times photo – Shondiin Silversmith)
I an Meade walked on stage equipped with small metal drum before a crowd of over 100 people. He didn't waste any time and quickly started singing.
Meade, a nine-year-old fourth grader at Pinon Elementary School, captured the audience as he sang "Nao", a near two-minute Navajo social song that he had learned by heart.
That was enough for Meade to defend his title in the intermediate solo performance at the 40th annual Diné Song and Dance Festival at Rock Point Elementary School from Jan. 30 to 31.
"I like singing in Navajo because it may encourage other biligaanas to sing in Navajo also," said Meade who has been singing Navajo for the past two years. "It's just nice to sing in Navajo..."
The festival brought together a total 16 different schools reservation-wide to compete in the annual event, which featured singers and dancers as young as kindergartners and as old as high school seniors.
Meade was not the only podium finisher from Pinon as Raelencia Nez Tsosie took home the third-place trophy in the same category, behind students from Albert R. Lyman Middle School in Blanding, Utah and Tse Biyi'nidzisgai Elementary School.
Competitors in the singing category were required to sing one Navajo song. They could not receive any help on stage and were allowed only a wooden or metal drum. Students were also not allowed to use any English while on stage or risk being disqualified.
Meade said it felt good to be able to win again, and he enjoys being able to share his singing talent with the Navajo people.
"Most people appreciate me singing in Navajo, and doing Navajo things," said Meade.
The second and third places were determined through a tiebreaker between four students.
Tsosie, 11, was among one of those fighting for a winning spot and she earned third for her song, "Shoo Ashkii" (translated "Hey, Boy").
After she completed her song, the crowd gave a loud approval as the visibly shy Tsosie walked off stage back to her fellow classmates.
"I chose it because it's kind of funny, and people enjoy it," Tsosie said of her reason for performing her song. It also "gives me a chance to express my culture."
Her mother Jewelita Henry said she never thought her daughter wanted to learn Navajo because her first language was English. But she's proud of her daughter taking interest in her culture.
Henry said she was extremely proud of her daughter's performance, and her singing always gets her very emotional.
Tsosie, who is Tabaaha, born for Kinyaa'aanii, said she hopes to one day be a singer.
When asked what he thought of Pinon's performance for the solo division, master of ceremony Sheldon Begay said, "They really showcased our language, our culture."