About the artist
Eddie Madril’s sound of belonging is the chirp of cicadas during the summer in Arizona. (6:49)
Eddie Madril is a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora Mexico. He is an active member of the Native American community and a representative of his culture through various aspects: as a dancer, singer, teacher, playwright and filmmaker. Eddie is currently a professor for American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and Mills College/Northeastern and is a monthly host for KPFA Radio’s Bay Native Circle program.
You know, when I close my eyes and I think of sounds that come to my ears and into my mind and into my heart—which really just feed the body, essentially—it comes from my childhood. Not growing up in Arizona but visiting Arizona. And visiting Arizona from the Central Valley of California, you go into a desert and as a little boy you think, well, this could be amazing, but it’s just desert. There’s nothing here. You have all these different ideas of leaving this lush area of food and abundance and mountains and things and you go to Arizona, and it’s just desert. But through time, you grow to appreciate these places, these spaces and these sounds.
As a little boy I heard this buzzing sound. This buzzing sound that I thought was electrical high wires and high-tension electrical wires, but it wasn’t. It was this little thing like a bug, a beetle. This little thing that just buzzed and buzzed really loudly, all by itself. And when there were many of them hiding in a tree, you didn’t know what they were, you didn’t know what they looked like. You just heard them. It was eerie, so eerie because your parents would be inside talking to all the other aunties and uncles and grandparents. The kids were outside, but sometimes there was only you, and you were afraid of the tarantulas and the rattlesnakes, but you never saw those things. What you heard was the sound, and it was the sound of a cicada. And if it wasn’t just one, and there were many, you wondered if you could hide and if you could run. But really, it was just a sound. And even though it was eerie, and maybe even a little bit scary in a curious way, you couldn’t help but just sit there and look and listen, wondering where that sound come from. Wondering if that sound came from a distant past that made this little animal, this little creature, this little beetle thing make that sound. Why? So as a little boy, you just wondered and wondered and wondered. Then all of a sudden, it was interrupted in the summer by that big thundering, thundering crash from the sky, from those monsoon rains that happen in the summer in Arizona. But as a little boy, just hearing those sounds created all kinds of imagination and visuals. All these imagined wonders of stories of where you would go and where they came from and what you could do with that sound. And if you would ever hear that sound again, because you would miss it when you left and came back home—what you now called home in California.
As a little boy, I didn’t really think much of Arizona. As an adult now, every time I think of Arizona, I can’t help but think of the thundering sounds of the monsoon rains. But more so hoping—without even telling anybody—just hoping that I might hear a cicada sound. And I don’t very often, but I guess I’m not outside playing as a little boy waiting for those sounds to come or not listening and then just hearing them. Now I’m that adult, just as my parents were, sitting inside hearing the stories from the elders and the cousins and their aunts and uncles that are still around. And when I do get to hear that cicada, I almost want everybody to be quiet. I almost want to be alone again and just hear that cicada sound. And no longer hear it as an adult, listening to it as a scientific mystery, but more of a nostalgic memory of how I used to be—which was curious, and creative. And the imagination allowing that sound to just take me on a journey no longer as an adult just looking at it going: I wonder what makes that sound? I need to know scientifically I need to know, you know, what makes this beetle what it is? It’s more so just the story escape that allows me to go into what we were taught a long time ago, which is to allow the imagination, and the dreams and the wonder become the magic. Let it all become the magic so that we can share that magic around us.
I now listen to the cicada no longer as just this beetle that makes a sound that sounds like electricity. I now think of it as a long, long-ago memory that existed so that I could hear it as a boy and create wonders. And so that I could become an adult and remember that as children, we have curiosities and as elders, we have all the experience to give us wisdom. That cicada encompasses all of it in my experience growing up as a boy, hearing that sound. That sound of the cicada accompanied by the thunder, the thunderclap of that monsoon rain takes me to a place that I did not grow up in, but I did grow up in—as a boy, as a Yaqui, in Arizona. A home place made up of the Earth and the beetles and the sky sounds of our ancestors and the ones that my daughter and great, great, great, great grandchildren perhaps will hear as well. It connects us all in our relationship not just to each other, but to the land and to the sky. So I would say, when I close my eyes, it’s a cicada sound that brings me back to a place and takes me forward to a space. It’s a cicada.