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The Speakers

Ron Welburn, jazz historian
Pura Fé

Ron Welburn, professor, teaches 19th and 20th century American literatures, Native literatures, critical writing, and a western hemisphere course called Américas Fictions. For American studies he encourages the practice of oral history, and encourages cultural studies foundations with musicology and indigenous intersections. He hold degrees from Lincoln U (PA), Arizona, and NYU’s Program in American Civilization. Ron served as director of the department’s American Studies Graduate Concentration, and co-founded and directed the Certificate Program in Native American Indian Studies (Anthropology).  He has led teacher workshops and book discussions for the Five College Public School Partnership, state arts and humanities councils in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, and for the Mashantucket Pequot Library and Research Center. His book reviews have appeared in CHOICE, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and elsewhere. Ron also reviewed jazz recordings for JazzTimes and Down Beat, and coordinated the Jazz Oral History Project at Rutgers Newark’s Institute of Jazz Studies. A widely published poet, he has seven books to his credit. He is of Gingaskin Cherokee, Assateague, Lenape, and African American descent.

Pura Fé (Tuscarora/Taino) is an Indigenous activist, singer-songwriter, and storyteller known for her distinct, soulful vocals and for breathing life into several musical genres. Her work as a musician has brought her around the world to do work at festivals, benefits, in classrooms, online, and in the studio. As a Native activist and cultural leader, she has done work to combat the erasure of native culture, restore traditions, build community, fight corporate takeover of native land, and give a voice to those facing social injustice.  

As the founding member of the internationally renowned Native Women’s a cappella trio Ulali, Pura Fé helped to create a movement throughout Indian Country, which not only empowered Native Women’s hand drum and harmony, but also built a bridge for Native music into the mainstream music scene.  Ulali’s unique fusion of ancestral music, cultural roots, and message has left its mark. Ulali has recorded music for soundtracks, television commercials, has had platinum sales in Italy, and appeared at several events for the benefit of Indigenous Peoples and the environment. 

Pura Fé’s solo career has produced six studio albums with her Native Blues and lap-steel slide guitar work. While touring Europe with Music Maker Blues Review under Dixie Frog and Nueva Onda French labels, she won Grand Prix du Disque from L'Académie Charls Cros (French Grammy) for Best World Album in 2006 for Tuscarora Nation Blues, and a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist for Follow Your Heart’s Desire in the same year. (Read more...)

The Series

This event is part of a series of panel discussions at Mount Holyoke College exploring the performance practice issues regarding the performance of the world’s first opera fully sung in Chickasaw, Jerod Impichchaachaacha’ Tate’s Shell Shaker. Moderated by Tate and Tianhui Ng from the Music Department, each session explores an aspect of concern regarding the performance of work by Native American/American Indian/Indigenous creators of musical art. 

In a time of increasing interest in this music, these sessions present perspectives on complex issues that face any performers who are interested in approaching this repertoire. A new topic with a new set of guests meets each session to talk about the subject at hand. Audience members can join students taking Music 173 - Performing Tate’s Shell Shaker to interact with the musicians, scholars, and leaders in the panels to glean new insight.

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