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Airdate: Apr 20, 2000
Scientist: Angelo Joaquin

Waila: Chicken Scratch

Waila: Chicken Scratch
The Tohono O'odham people of Southwest Arizona have taken European dance styles, like the polka, and adapted them to the hot desert climate.

We're listening to the traditional dance music of the Tohono O'odham, native Americans who live in southern Arizona. This kind of music sometimes goes by the name "chicken scratch." I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.
"When O'odham would dance, the old style of dancing, you would kick your heels up and so from a distance it sounded like and looked like chicken scratching, that's where the term came from. "
Angelo Joaquin, Jr., directs an annual chicken scratch festival, but he prefers to call the music "Waila", a name derived from the Spanish word "baile" , or dance. Waila originated in the 1800's, a cultural hybrid influenced by the music of northern Mexican and European immigrants.
"When the Europeans came to this part of the country bringing their accordions and their polkas, other visitors to this area brought their own traditions, such as the schottishes and the mazurkas and more recently the cumbia." The Tohono O'odham people have taken all these dances and made them their own.
"And so O'odham have developed what we call the walking two step or the walking polka and the emphasis is on very smooth gliding movement. This has come about for two reasons. Number one, if you're dancing from sundown to sunup, you have to conserve your energy. Number two, it's still warm and so you have to take precautions not to dehydrate yourself. "
To hear some of your favorite Pulse of the Planet programs again online, please visit nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner.