R. Carlos Nakai
R. Carlos Nakai
Playing with the Armed Forces Band became impossible, however, because an auto accident damaged his mouth, making it impossible to produce the correct embouchure to continue playing brass instruments. Shortly after this accident, he was presented with a gift of a traditional Native American cedar flute and challenged to master it. Nakai has said that most of his inspiration comes from the expressions of native communities and his desire to preserve his own Native American heritage. In addition, he likes to blend his native music with that of other cultures, thereby helping to preserve their heritage as well. To that end, he has collaborated with a Japanese folk ensemble, the Philadelphia Orchestra's Israeli cellist Udi Bar-David, guitarist William Eaton, American composer Philip Glass, Tibetan flutist Nawang Khechog and flutist Paul Horn.
A 2005 collaboration with slack key guitar master Keola Beamer fused two very different indigenous American cultural forms and resulted in the album Our Beloved Land. He has expressed his philosophy and views of Native American culture in the modern world in an interview with Native Digest. The Library of Congress has more than 30 of his recordings preserved in the American Folklife Center. His Earth Spirit and Canyon Trilogy albums are the only Native American albums to be certified gold and platinum, respectively, by the RIAA. Nakai developed a system of tablature notation (commonly known as Nakai tablature) that could be used across a wide variety of flute keys and tunings. He published this in The Art of the Native American Flute (1996) with James Demars, Ken Light and David P. McAllester.
This provided resources and support for other musicians playing the Native American flute. In 2005, he was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Arizona Governor's Arts Award in 1992. He received an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University in 1994 and the NAUAA Dwight Patterson (1934) Alumnus of the Year Award in 2001. Nakai earned a master's degree in American Indian studies from the University of Arizona.
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