Sunday, October 20, 2019

Buffy Sainte-Marie

It was a dream come true, hearing Buffy Sainte-Marie performing here in Santa Fe.  In the 1960’s I frequented the Greenwich Village coffee houses in New York but to my recollection, I had never heard her live before.  We are so lucky to live somewhere that people enjoy visiting and entertainers want to come despite the fact that they  make money touring playing venues much larger than our local Lensic theater with its 821 seats. During her solo performance Buffy talked several times about how expensive it is to travel, especially with her band, so I presume that is why they did not come along.  She used the excuse, however, that they had just been to Australia.

Joel Aalberts, Executive Director of the Lensic introduced her performance by explaining that the evening’s event was a fund raiser for Indigenous Solutions/Indigenous Ways, The Friendship Club of Santa Fe and Tewa Women United.  All very appropriate for our new holiday in the State of New Mexico, Indigenous People’s Day, formerly known as Columbus Day.

Buffy Sainte-Marie was born in 1941 or 1942 into the Cree Tribe in Saskatchewan, Canada where records of the Indians were not that carefully kept.  She was adopted by a family from Massachusetts where she grew up. During her performance she mentioned twice the bullying and sexual harassment she experienced both from her stepbrother in their home, and a relative who lived outside their home.

The concert began with a traditional Indian blessing in the Tewa language and English for an on-stage group of local Native women elders.  There was one of two signers translating throughout the evening. I don’t know why people who could not hear would come to a small concert like this but maybe it was just a fitting symbol of communication.  Part of the Buffy message is that we have consideration for others as we all need to get along, particularly important in these divided times.

Of course, the reason for going to a concert given by Buffy Sainte-Marie is to hear her sing her songs.  She is not only has a great voice but she is a multitalented in the musical arts, playing different instruments.  She played two string instruments a keyboard and a mouthbow on this particular evening. If I am not mistaken, she only sang songs that she herself had written.  Her lyrics make you realize her talent for poetry as well.

Of course, she sang some of her strongest and most popular songs such as, “My Country 'tis of Thy People you're Dying” and her fans’ 1964 all-time favorite, “Universal Soldier”.

She explained it came to her when she was stuck overnight in San Francisco Airport and in the middle of the night this Airforce transport landed, and injured soldiers were brought through on gurneys… that was Vietnam.

After her performance there was an after party at which we were all giving a shoulder bag which included Buffy’s Biography.

Altogether the experience was much more than an exercise in nostalgia, it was a stirring performance by a still-great artist and a perfect opening for the Indigenous Day weekend.

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