Issac J. Bailey | Entertainment with a purpose

Jana Mashonee is the featured singer at Coastal Carolina University’s annual Native American Celebration, held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Edwards Recital Hall.

It is a free concert and her albums are sold at Creek Gallery at Barefoot Landing.

Mashonee has performed for the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama and at Carnegie Hall.

She’s won 7 Native American Music Awards and her 2006 album “American Indian Story” was nominated for a Grammy.

She’s a Lumbee Indian from North Carolina, has family along the Grand Strand, is the founder of a non-profit and an author.

All of that is cool, but I’m interested in her visit because I remember her from Davidson College when our student careers there overlapped.

She was a big-time performing talent on campus, and that obviously hasn’t changed.

She is a Native American singer-songwriter today as she was then. But her voice and style encompasses that label and so much more.

Fans of singers such as Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson and the like would enjoy Mashonee’s music and voice.

I had a chance to catch up with her recently via email:

Bailey: Tell me about “New Moon Born,” the inspiration for it, the primary message?

Mashonee: New Moon Born is about rebirth, renewal, and new beginnings. It reflects a phase in my life that has taken on a different shape and direction from anything I’ve done. It is a departure from my previous albums that were concept albums. This album is a collage of my experiences and feelings of life for a period of one year in making the album. It is deeply personal yet … touches on emotions all of us feel … and conveys my personal truths and beliefs.

Bailey: For those who don’t know much about the Native American music genre, how is it different from, or similar to, other genres?

Mashonee: The music that I perform is an amalgamation of different styles, R&B, pop, soul, mixed with traditional Native instrumentation such as Native flutes, bells, and Native drums. I do not solely perform traditional Native music, which is usually just voice, flutes, and drums with other Native instrument accents. My previous albums, “American Indian Story” and “American Indian Christmas” are very traditional. … But my current album is more contemporary. I pride myself in being able to be influenced musically by many other cultures and styles of music. It is my mission to break down the stereotype that all Native musicians perform just pow wow style music. There are a lot of Native musicians out there today who are performing hip hop, country, and blues but put their Native twist on it.

Bailey: You performed for the Obamas and Laura Bush. Which is the hipper crowd? Republicans or Democrats?

Mashonee: Haha. I’ve actually also performed for Dubya as well – but I would say that whomever had the most drinks those nights were the ones who were the most fun. (Take a guess).

Bailey: At Davidson you were among maybe a couple of Native Americans, and Native Americans are often times the almost-forgotten minority. How has that reality shaped you and your music?

Mashonee: Yes, my heritage has definitely shaped my music, but it is not the sole reason why I make music. I am purposeful in wanting to show the truly beautiful ways of my people through my message and through song. Music is the ultimate conduit that spreads positivity throughout the world. I do, though, believe that in the end people do not care what color you are – if they are inspired by your music, then that’s all that matters. If somehow we can be colorblind but at the same time respect each other’s cultural differences and live together harmoniously, that would be ideal. It might be Pollyanna to think that, but maybe one day it can happen through the creative arts, like music.

Bailey: Should fans, or potentially new fans, much care about that aspect of your being or only focus on your music and performance?

Mashonee: Fans and potential fans alike should care that I’m hopefully making some great music to be shared and enjoyed because that’s what it’s all about – not the color of my skin.

Bailey: What else should folks along the Grand Strand know about you and what you represent?

Mashonee: There are many Lumbees living in the Carolinas including the Grand Strand, and many people still do not know that we are the largest tribe in North Carolina and the 9th largest tribe in the country. There are also many other smaller tribes that inhabit the Carolinas and it would be amazing for folks to reach out and befriend those people and get to know about the Native culture that is right here at your doorstep, not just hundreds of miles away in the Southwest.

My mission is to spread positivity through my music, no matter what language or style I sing in. It has been my passion for a good part of my life, and I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to do just that. Through my Jana’s Kids Foundation, which helps provide scholarships to Native and Aboriginal youth throughout North America, I encourage kids to know these things: “If you don’t know who you are or where you’re coming from, then you don’t know where you’re going. Stay on the path of life that is true to who you are and who you want to be. Knowing this, all things are possible.”