Native Village Youth and Education News

May 1, 2009 Issue 198
Volume 4

Chicken scratch music inspires Quechan filmmaker

Generations ago, O'odam Indian villages took the music of European immigrants and created "chicken scratch," a music tradition all their own. Now, thanks to Quechan filmmaker Daniel Golding, that story and music is preserved in "Waila: Making the People Happy," a documentary airing on PBS stations coast to coast

"Waila" (WHY-lah) is another name for chicken scratch music.

Golding specializes in making documentaries about tribal culture. He felt it was his duty to preserve the story of this unique type of music found only in the American Southwest.  "I really wanted to tell people about this great musical style and expose part of Native America that most people just aren't exposed to," he said.  "It's so different from what people perceive to be native music. It's contemporary native music and it has its own place within the community."

Chicken Scratch blends indigenous music with European influences ranging from polka music to Mexico styles such as norteno. The music is performed without lyrics on fiddles, guitars, accordions, saxophones and drums.

Golding graduated with honors from the film school at San Francisco State University. Many of his films have been showed at film festivals throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. "Waila: Making the People Happy," played at the Sundance Film Festival and won honors at the American Indian Film Festival and the Marin County Film Festival.

 "Waila: Making the People Happy" focuses on the Joaquin Brothers, one of the chicken scratch bands.

  "The movie tells the history and development of the music through three generations of one family," Golding said. "The Joaquin Brothers are sort of like the legends. They are the older ones who got everything going. They were even invited in 1994 to play at Carnegie Hall."

Most chicken scratch music is passed down orally. "Ninety percent of the people that play don't know how to read music. They just hear it and learn it by ear," Golding said. "Everyone knows the songs and everyone calls them by their own names, but it's the same music.".

 "Today, even the young people are really into waila. You can see tough, rugged gang-banger Indians out there dancing waila."





Background: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

Volume 3
Native Village Home Page

NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written in full by the credited author.
Native Village is responsible for format changes. Articles may also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles. Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article.  Our hopes are to make the news as informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning circles  to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update reminders. We are always glad to make new friends!

Native Village is a supporter of the Link Center Foundation: