Bill Madrigal

Cahuilla Bird Singing

The Bird Songs of the Cahuilla Tribe of Southern California tell the story of creation and of the people’s relationship to all living things.  Actually a long cycle of songs similar to epic songs of western tradition, they must be learned and sung in correct sequence.  As a Cahuilla Bird Singer, Bill Madrigal’s responsibility is to sing and conduct himself with respect for his culture and to teach others of the tribe who show a similar sincere commitment.

An important part of the tradition includes how to choose the right gourd, clean and prepare it, and craft it into a finely tuned musical instrument.  As a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2002, he shepherded apprentice Sean Bogner, who is also of the Cahuilla tribe and is related to Bill by clan, in the process of making rattles out of gourds to accompany the songs.  They also worked on expanding Sean’s knowledge of the Bird Song cycle so that he can increase his participation at traditional tribal gatherings.


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