Kevin Locke Music

Kevin Locke, the master hoop dancer and preeminent player of the indigenous North American flute, composed, arranged and performed much of the music in Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi. Kevin also served as musical advisor to the film production team. The selections here include a background on each of the traditional and contemporary pieces that you hear in the film.

Thunder Horse Born From the Clouds

Thunder Horse Born From the Clouds is one of many traditional pieces Kevin learned from his uncle, Charles Kills Enemy. The song recounts the spiritual origin of the horse, a sacred creature sent as a gift from the heavens to the people on earth. The song is often performed during the annual thunder feast, a springtime celebration of the seasonal shift from darkness to light, and from cold to warmth. In Lakota Country it is the season of storms, hence the connection between thunder and the horse. This arrangement, used for the film credit sequence, is taken from Kevin’s Earth Gift album. The music has a distinctly modern feel, with upbeat rhythms and fast-paced flute melody.


Itcanyapi, the music for Alayna Eagle Shield’s Verb Phrases in Lakota film is an honoring song, most often used to acknowledge a community leader. This version, from Kevin’s album Midnight Strong Heart honors Kevin’s mother, Good Hearted Woman. The simple lyrics incorporate her name into a musical exhortation that calls on people to “behold this brave and good leader.” This musical honorific is a timely one — Good Hearted Woman was posthumously recognized for her leadership with the Race Amity Award in 2014.

Buffalo Dance from
Midnight Strong Heart

Buffalo Dance from Midnight Strong Heart, is used in the film to illustrate the stereotypical images of Lakota people found in print and film. The is a women’s coming of age song, its lyrics referring to the spirit that causes the buffalo to roam across the land.

Buffalo Said to Me

Buffalo Said to Me, the haunting melody played during the film’s history section, was inspired by a 1911 recording made by the anthropologist Frances Densmore. The singer Brave Buffalo performed this song, with lyrics that recount a vision in which Brave Buffalo saw a buffalo that offered the singer guidance in his life. Kevin’s arrangement, performed on his album Earth Gift, is an evocative blend of flute, percussion and voice. The Frances Densmore Collection, housed at the Library of Congress, includes thousands of Indian recordings that Densmore, an anthropologist, collected from the Lakota, Chippewa, Mandan and dozens of other tribes in North America.

When Thunder Calls

When Thunder Calls from Kevin’s Earth Gift album, is a summoning song. The thunder, or thunder-being is calling out to the heyókȟa people, asking them to be allies to the thunder itself. Heyókȟa people are known to be dreamers of thunder, often called on to perform certain tasks within the tribe. In the film the song is used in a section that compares the English and Lakota descriptions of a thunderstorm.

Conflict and Assimilation

Conflict and Assimilation are two cuts from a very unusual album, Seven Fires, a collaboration involving Kevin and several other artists. These pieces were improvised with instrument and voice to evoke certain moods. In the film Conflict is used as Lakota elders recall their experiences as children in boarding schools. A brief section of Assimiliation is used when the film presents the pride many young Lakota felt in their ability to speak both English and Lakota.  The woman’s high-pitched call at the end of the piece is known as uŋgnáǧičala hokíčatȟuŋ, which means to give the cry of a screech owl in someone’s honor.


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