|DISCIPLINE:||Traditional Dancer & Singer|
In the earlier part of the twentieth century many Indians migrated to New York City. Often escaping the poverty of reservations, they came here in search of a better life. Finding work was difficult for most. Some, like the Mohawks, were lucky and found a niche building the skyscrapers and bridges of Manhattan. Many found work in less heroic professions, but nevertheless, work was found and families fed and raised. Settling mainly in Brooklyn, this first wave of urban Indians often found themselves and their traditions at odds with the way life was lived in the city. Many assimilated, others moved back - but the ones that stayed became the nucleus of the now contemporary Native community of New York City. Kevin Tarrant, Hopi/ Ho-Chunk, is a proud and direct descendent of these early pioneers.
Kevin, along with his siblings Michael, Donald, Kenny and Judy started dancing as a baby. Kevin became seriously interested in singing when he was around nine years old - "I had a little drum and used to sing around the house...and in order to dance you have to know the songs - the beats. The more songs you know, the better dancer you become. For me, the next logical step was singing". He began singing with his uncle Louis' Thunderbird Singers at thirteen. As the group began to travel around the country, he became exposed to other drum groups, other styles. Soon, he was buying as many Indian music tapes he could, and immersing himself in the many traditions of Native music. Later, while joining a drum group, he would learn first hand from other drums, other singers, and would soon be composing his own songs.
In 1990, Kevin and his brother Michael formed the basis of what would later become the SilverCloud Singers. They were at times called "All Indian Singers", "All Nations", "Silver Bullet." The members of the drum were Michael Tarrant, Lance Richmond, Preston Tonepahhote, Darryl Swift, and Kevin. When Kevin decided to form a group of his own, he chose the name "SilverCloud Singers', as an honor to his mother Josephine, who passed away in 1975. Her Indian name was SilverCloud.
Today, SilverCloud are an intertribal drum and dance troupe, featuring singers and dancers of many Nations throughout the US and Canada. Kevin says "It isn't something you just pick up and think you can do - it's in you, it's a gift. And you have to practice." He takes his work very seriously - and he is very aware of what his voice is doing. He says "I can hear if I'm singing well. I don't overdo it - you have to know your limitations. Everyone has to know their range, their plateau. It's better to sing under your plateau than to reach it. Of course, if your are at an event and you are only singing two songs - then you can go ahead and let it rip!".
Asked if he had ever considered singing other styles of music, such as rock. Kevin says "No, it's not for me. What I do is deeper. It was what I was told to do. Someone once said to me 'if you are singing for two hundred people, and maybe one hundred and fifty don't like you, there might be that one person in the back who you touch, whom you make feel better. It's about that. It's not about the glory. The way it was explained to me - each person is given a gift by the creator. If you are a good singer, that is your job. If you are a good hunter, you hunt. If you are a good speaker - you speak. I consider this a gift. Singing is my job in the community."
Kevin Tarrant and the SilverCloud Singers remain
very much apart of the community his family helped form so many years
ago. With the SilverCloud Singers and Dancers, they give educational
performances in area schools, bringing traditional Native music and
dance to those who may have only seen it on television. Most recently,
they performed at the AICH Annual Children's Christmas party. One
of the star dancers is Kevin's seven year old daughter Josie, proudly
dancing in her mother’s and father's footsteps