American Indian Council
Platinum Status for
By Dawn Karima, Native American Culture
In recent news that will delight Native
flute fans everywhere, The Native American Music Association (NAMA) announced
that multi-award winner and Lifetime Achievement recipient, R. Carlos Nakai has
achieved 1,000,000 units in sales of his 1989 Canyon Records release entitled,
Canyon Trilogy, and has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA).
R. Carlos Nakai received numerous nominations and awards from the Native
American Music Awards including; Best Flutist in 1998, Best Male Artist in 1998,
Best Instrumental Recording in 2000, Best Flutist in 2001, Best New Age
Recording in 2003, and Best World Music Recording in 2006 with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet. In 2001, the Native American Music Association presented him with
a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1983, Nakai signed with the Arizona-based independent label, Canyon Records
and released his debut recording, Changes. To date, Nakai has released a total
of more than 50 albums in his career, 40 of them with Canyon, and sold more than
4.3 million albums. His Earth Spirit recording, released in 1987, was certified
Gold in 2001 and the Canyon Trilogy recording, released in 1989, was certified
Gold in 1998 by the RIAA. Produced by Robert Doyle, president of Canyon Records,
Canyon Trilogy features 17 music tracks of the cedar flute with three tracks of
an overdubbed second flute. By using the Roland SDE 3000 Digital Delay system,
Nakai was able to play duets with his own echo.
Nakai has stated that most of his inspiratiofejbn comes from the expressions of
Native communities and his desire to preserve his own Native American heritage.
He has explored many genres with the traditional Native American flute including
world, classical, jazz and new age music. He has also collaborated with a
Japanese folk ensemble and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Israeli cellist Udi
Bar-David. He has worked with American composer Philip Glass, Tibetan flutist
Nawang Khechog, flutist Paul Horn, and Hawaiian slack key guitar master Keola
R. Carlos Nakai and Rita Coolidge celebrating at the
NAMMYS! (photo courtesy of NAMA)
The RIAA is the country’s music trade
association whose member companies are responsible for creating, manufacturing,
or distributing approximately 85 percent of all music sold in the United States.
The RIAA® Gold® and Platinum® Awards program was launched in 1958 to honor
artists and create a standard by which to measure national sales of a sound
recording. The Gold album award is for the sale of 500,000 copies. The Platinum
award, which was created in 1976 with the advent of the compact disc is for
1,000,000 in sales. Certifications are undertaken when the label or artist has
requested certification after certain sales thresholds have been met nationally.
The RIAA award programs are the longest-running objective measure of achievement
for sound recordings in the United States, and provide an unmatched historical
perspective on the success of countless recording artists.
Although the RIAA does not track recordings by genre or ethnicity, NAMA believes
that it currently appears that no other Native American recording artist has yet
achieved 1,000,000 in sales with RIAA certification for a traditional-based
Native American music recording. According to NAMA, other commercial recordings,
whether Native American inspired, or by contemporary artists of Native American
heritage, have been certified for Gold and Platinum, but none for sales of a
Originally released in 1971, the all American rock group, Paul Revere & The
Raiders were certified Platinum by the RIAA for their classic #1 single, Indian
Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian) in 1996. But no one
in the group was Native American and the single contained no traditional
The Native American Pop group, Redbone, and NAMA Hall of Fame Inductees, which
featured brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas (Yaqui and Shoshone) and Tony Bellamy
(Yaqui) were certified Gold in 1974 for their hit single, Come And Get Your
Love. The song was also featured on the Guardians of the Galaxy 70’s inspired
soundtrack which was just certified Platinum on January 7, 2015.
NAMA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Rita Coolidge (Cherokee), received
several Gold and Platinum awards. Her singles, Higher and Higher, Were All
Alone, and Anytime, Anywhere and her album Love Me Again all went Gold in 1977
and 1978. The album Anytime, Anywhere was also certified Platinum in 1977. In
more recent years, Rita has recorded traditionally-based Native American music
with her late sister and niece as Walela, who have received multiple Native
American Music Awards and are in the top 10 of the highest selling Native
American albums in Nielsen Music’s sales data.
NAMA Hall of Famer, Janice Marie Johnson (Stockbridge-Munsee-Mohican) was
certified Gold for her penned singles with her group, A Taste of Honey, for
Boogie Oogie Oogie and Sukiyaki in 1978 and 1981. The international Pop hit,
Boogie Oogie Oogie was also certified Platinum in 1978.
Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), and NAMA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, was
certified Gold for his self-titled recording, Robbie Robertson in 1988. He has
also released two Native American recordings featuring himself and various other
traditional Native American artists entitled, Music For The Native Americans in
1994, and Contact From the Underworld of Red Boy in 1998. Music For the Native
Americans is the #1 best-selling Native American album reported by Nielsen Music
with over 233,000 albums.
The 1994 international release of Sacred Spirit: Chants and Dances of Native
America featuring an ambient, electronic, new age compilation of sampled Native
American chants is reported to have sold over seven million copies worldwide,
but has never been Gold or Platinum in the United States. The first single by
Navajo elder, Kee Chee Jake from Chinle, Arizona, entitled, Yeha-Noha (Wishes of
Happiness and Prosperity) is said to have catapulted the recording into
Billboard’s Hot 100 and leveraged its international appeal in such countries as
France, Italy and the UK.
Other soundtracks from the motion picture films; Dances With Wolves and Last of
the Mohicans which took on the perspective of Native Americans, have both been
certified Gold and Platinum by 1993 and 1995, but are void of any traditional or
contemporary Native American music.
Nielsen Music is another music industry measuring standard using SoundScan, a
sales tracking system. For more than two decades, Nielsen Music has been a
trusted and vital resource for companies that want a full picture of music
sales, overall market performance and artist activity. Nielsen’s SoundScan has
been a source for the Billboard music charts and radio play. Their data is
collected from 14,000 retail, mass merchant, and non-traditional outlets
(on-line stores, venues, digital music services, etc.) not only in the United
States, but also in Canada, UK and Japan. According to Nielsen Music, the top
three largest selling Native American recordings are; Music For the Native
Americans by Robbie Robertson, Things We Do by Indigenous and R. Carlos Nakai’s
Canyon Trilogy. Nakai’s Emergence and Earth Spirit recordings follow suit along
with Walela’s debut recording, Walela and Music From A Painted Cave by Robert
Mirabal. Collectively, Sacred Spirit’s three releases in 1995, 2007, and 2011
total 219,000, Buffy Sainte-Marie has sold a total of 104,000 and Joanne
Shenandoah has sold 89,000 albums exclusively at SoundScan retail outlets.
RIAA numbers may effectively represent sales at a wholesale level and Neilsen
Music’s Soundscan represents the retail level. An album may easily be certified
Gold or Platinum before it’s retail sales numbers actually reflect it on
Soundscan. RIAA also treats physical and digital sales separately, while
Soundscan counts only by UPC code. Additionally, many Native American music
recordings are released through small and independent labels using various
distributors and may escape conventional retail outlets. However, Native
American music recordings remain strong among both measuring systems.
Dynamic performer of the Native American flute, Nakai, celebrated his first
Platinum Record with a commemorative concert at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
Theater in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, January 23, 2015. He presented his
Platinum Record to the Museum for inclusion in his exhibit in their Artist
Gallery. Joining Nakai at the MIM were his long time collaborators, William
Eaton (harp guitar) and Will Clipman (world ethnic percussion/drums). Both Eaton
and Clipman have performed and recorded with Nakai for more than 25 years. Nakai
also invited Tony Duncan, labelmate and a leading Native American flute player
and world championship hoop dancer to share the stage. Classical
composer/pianist James DeMars was also invited to perform, “Lake That Speaks,”
the second movement on the Two World Concerto recordin along with collaborator,
composer and pianist Peter Kater whose latest joint release, Ritual (Mysterium
Records), has been nominated for Best New Age Album in this year’s Grammys.
Founded and incorporated in 1998, The Native American Music Association and
annual Awards program, the Native American Music Awards (NAMA), are the world’s
first and only professional membership-based organization dedicated to American
Indigenous music initiatives by Native North Americans. NAMA members are
responsible for creating, producing, manufacturing and distributing traditional
and contemporary Native American music. Powwows.com and NAMA both congratulate
Nakai on his fantastic achievement!