A wonderful afternoon at Barona reservations 7th annual Gathering listening to traditional bird singing and watching the dancers. Unlike many other tribes, where the drum is the instrument of choice, a gourd or tortoise-shell rattle filled with native palm seeds accompanies the Kumeyaay bird songs.
The songs are allegorical in nature. Telling different stories about different animals and people, life stories, and how to interact with each other in a way that is beneficial to themselves as human beings but also telling them how to be beneficial to all living things.
“To sing the entire body of songs takes all-night or longer. The first songs, the entrance songs, are sung as the sun goes down. The entire cycle is gone through during the night, until the morning; when the sun rises, the final song in the cycle is sung.
The length of individual songs seems to be completely up to the singers. The songs themselves are generally two, maybe three lines long, and they are repeated; how many repetitions of those lines within a song seems to be up to the singers. They can complete one song in two minutes, or they can take that same song and extend it for ten minutes.”
SAIL Studies in American Indian Literatures Series 2 Volume 1, Numbers 3 & 4 Winter1989