Founded in 1966 by Tony and Ida Lujan Isaacs, Indian House has a reputation as a label committed to respectful, selective, high-quality recordings of traditional American Indian music. Exceptional performances combined with informative liner notes are the hallmarks of Indian House recordings.
In 1954 Tony made his first field recording of Oglala Lakota singers at the Flagstaff Powwow in Arizona. Over the next 12 years, he recorded several thousand traditional songs from tribes in Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and California. In 1966, with more than a decade's experience studying traditional American Indian composition and performance, and considerable field recording experience, Tony, along with his wife, Ida, launched Indian House. Today the Indian House collection contains over 150 carefully selected recordings. Originally issued on LP and cassette, almost all have now been released on CD.
Most Indian House recordings are made on location, outdoors, where the singing is usually performed. Tony believes in natural sound for recording traditional American Indian music. No reverberation, synthesizers, or sound effects are added to the original recording.
In contrast to the commonly heard "sampler" approach, with many different song styles sung by many different groups, most Indian House recordings feature one type of song, performed by one group, so as to present an in-depth, coherent musical performance. "When you hear an album of ten Navajo Yeibichei songs, one after the other, you begin to learn something about Yeibichei singing," says Isaacs. "On a sampler album with one Yeibichei song, you learn only that it is different than the other types of songs."
Indian House does not record the "fusion" or "world beat" music which has become popular in the past few years. "There are two ways to get Indian music out to the world audience," says Isaacs. "One way is to modernize the music to make it accessible to people with non-traditional ears. The other way is to encourage people to improve their ears and come over to where the music is. Traditional American Indian music is good just the way it is. It doesn't need to be mixed with anything. For the people who want it, it's here, but they have to make the trip." For those willing to make the trip, Indian House has some exceptional music waiting for them.
For more about Indian House, please see Musical Mission by Danita Ross in New Mexico Magazine, August, 1992.