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“Zuni Pueblo Rainbow Dance Song”

by Edward Wapp Wahpeconiah (Comanche and Sac-Fox)

The Zuni have a large repertoire of religious and secular dances. Some of their nonreligious dances, such as the Rainbow Dance, are presented as show dances and can be performed outside of the Pueblo for fairs, festivals, and tourist entertainment. The Rainbow Dance is connected with agriculture and functions as a prayer offering for rain. The Zuni Rainbow Dance Song is in four sections: A-B-C-A. The sections are contrasted, slow-fast-fast-slow. Each section is composed of several sets of contrasting paired phrases that are repeated. The opening phrase of the song is found in each section and functions as an introductory phrase as well as a transitional phrase for repetitions.

The song is accompanied by a drum and gourd rattles. The opening and closing sections of the song are marked by single beats that follow the pulse of the song. The sections close with a rattle tremolo. The accompaniment for the two middle sections is more varied and includes a double beat accompaniment, pauses, contrasting loud-soft drum accents, and rattle tremolos. The varied accompaniments mark changes in dance gestures and choreography.

The text of the song is composed of vocables, syllables without specific meaning. Although the song is primarily syllabic, melismas—passages where one syllable glides through several notes—do occur, and one phrase in section B features a long melisma. Towards the ends of sections, melodies are raised in pitch.

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Recorded at Zuni Pueblo, October 22, 1991. Commentary by Edward Wapp Wahpeconiah (Comanche and Sac-Fox).