Native American vocalist Joanne Shenandoah is a member of the Wolf Clan of the Oneida Nation, Iroquois Confederacy. Her parents, Maisie Shenandoah, a Clanmother, and the late Clifford Shenandoah, an Onondaga chief and jazz guitarist, loved music and named Joanne "Tek-ya-wha-wha," which means "she sings" in the Oneida language. As a child, Joanne learned all the tribal songs and studied voice, flute, piano, clarinet, guitar, and cello. She draws upon her rich heritage, yet can bring these songs into a contemporary setting.
In 1994, Shenandoah sang at the Woodstock Festival and has appeared on and created sound tracks for numerous television shows, most notably Northern Exposure and How the West Was Lost. She has performed and recorded with many accomplished musicians in Europe and America, including pianist/composer Peter Kater, Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, and Rita Coolidge. From traditional chants to contemporary ballads of Native ways, her music has been described as an emotional experience, a "Native American trance."
Shenandoah is the cofounder and president of Round Dance Productions, a non-profit educational Native-operated foundation dedicated toward the preservation of Iroquois culture. Round Dance has begun to initiate activities which will result in the creation of a Native American traditional music archive, performing arts center, and recording studio. In 1993, Shenandoah was honored with the "Native American of the Year" award, and the next year she was awarded "Native Musician of the Year," from the First Americans in the Arts Foundation. Shenandoah has recorded on the Canyon Records and Silver Wave Records labels since then, delivering a sometimes spotty but always authentic array of Native American music. Highlights of her catalog include 1997's warm and earnest Matriarch: Iroquois Women's Songs and 2001's politically motivated Eagle Cries. ~ Carol Wright