There are three “Prayer Songs” in this collection. Prayer Songs are sung by a single singer, and are used to “clean the air, and clean the floor” before ceremonies or other important events begin. The literal translation of Prayer Song, kil.isalang, is “to talk without being aware of what one is saying”, as if in a trance. Historically such songs were used among Southern Haida to bring initiates back to the world of the living. Among the Northern Haida, such songs were performed by chiefs after they had given a spirit to an initiate. They were also sung by the male host of a potlatch at dawn on the morning of a potlatch.
Prayer Songs are accompanied with an instrument used in a fast soft beat, such as a drum, rattle, or a dance leader’s stick pounded on the floor. Prayer Songs are very intense to sing in ceremonies or other cultural events. I began singing Prayer Songs after joining Rainbow Creek, as there were not any such songs left in Skidegate. They are sung acapella, making eye-contact with everyone in the room. The drum or rattle is played this particular way to invoke spirit.
For more information about Haida musical traditions see www.haidagwaiisingers.ca