The music in a Powwow comes primarily from the drum groups who circle the arena. The drum groups usually consist of several men, each with a covered mallet, circling a large drum covered with hide (buffalo, elk, cow, etc.). The men then blend their voices with the beating of the drum to create the song. The songs are varied and endless in number: some are traditional and passed down through history; others are contemporary and created to speak to current concerns and interests. Many songs are sung in the original Indian languages, a fact some believe will help keep the languages alive and vital to the growing youth.
Each category of dance has a specific style of song and pace that is appropriate for the specific dance. The Drum group, particularly the lead singer, is responsible for having whatever style of song is required immediately available at the request of the MC or arena director.
Songs are very important and have intense personal impact.
Mike Hotaine, MC and Dakota person from Manitoba, explains. "There is a song everywhere. No matter where you go, there is a song. And that's what we're told to listen to. There's songs in the grass, because it is the sacred blanket of Mother Earth in the summertime. And there are songs in the wintertime when the wind howls through windows and doors, there is a song. There's songs in birds that sing a particular song and there are words in that song. All we have to do is learn to listen to them, the great songs of Mother Earth." "God gave one of the greatest gifts to us, to sing together, and the beat of that particular song , the drumbeat itself, which is your heart. So your heart is your drumbeat, and your songs are the gifts of life...the songs of life."
Ron Davis, a Grass Dancer from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, says. "You hear a good song, you're out there dancing, you kind of go to your inner self, into where you had your vision. You go back to the place where you feel comfortable in your own state of mind. And nothing else around you can interrupt that. And when you hear that song, it's so pretty, you know, it sounds like the wind. And you just dance to that, and it feels good." Lillian Goodeagle, a Dakota/Northern Cheyenne champion Fancy Shawl dancer , explains. "A real good song, it just comes into you. It's like in your heart, and your body, your feet, your legs, your arms--everything--is expressing that song."