SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra is a staple of the state’s music scene, and it has reached a milestone. For the first time, it has a commercial recording: five songs forming an album titled “Lakota Music Project.”
“Music is almost like a language in a way,” flutist Bryan Akipa said.
You can hear Akipa’s red cedar flute on the song “Wind on a Clear Lake,” a composition from Jeffrey Paul, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra’s principal oboist. Akipa once played for Paul at a cabin in northeastern South Dakota.
“He could hear the wind making the melody, and so he started writing it down, and that’s how he wrote the ‘Wind on Clear Lake,” Akipa said.
Paul says it’s “thrilling” to be a part of the recording.
“I don’t want to say culmination because this is an ongoing project that we’re definitely going to be continuing in more and better capacities but it’s a culmination of the work so far that has been done,” Paul said.
The Lakota Music Project, which features members of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra performing alongside Native musicians, is not new.
“We started conceptualizing it in 2005, but it took about four years to build it, so by the time we toured it in 2009, we’d been at it for a long time,” said Delta David Gier, music director of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. “And again the secret to it is that we built it together with tribal elders, with cultural leaders and with musicians both Lakota and Dakota.”
Gier conducted all compositions on the album.
“I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard anything like it before,” he said.
The album’s reverent rendition of “Amazing Grace” is a prime example of how it only follows the beat of its own drum. For Akipa, who’s a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Sioux Tribe, this album puts a spotlight on his instrument.
“When you put it in a symphony with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, it kind of raises the importance of the way people feel about the flute,” Akipa said.
There’s a sense of pride, too.
“The biggest feeling of pride is actually when I’m sitting in with the symphony, and you can see the musicians right next to me, and you’re right in the middle of all that sound and all that energy and all that talent and all these people, and that’s when I really feel the most proud,” Akipa said.
You can listen to the album here or here.