Brulé & AIRO is a contemporary Native American New Age/Worldbeat music group based in South Dakota. They have sold over one million CDs worldwide, won a number of awards, and have made media appearances with the Live with Regis and Kathie Lee television show, CNN WorldBeat, QVC, and others. They maintain a schedule of well over 100 performances a year including full stage productions with traditional dancers, an annual holiday tour, performances at Milwaukee's Indian Summer Festival, Indian Art Markets in Denver, Arlington (Tx.), and Overland Park, Kansas, Harbor Fest in Virginia Beach, the world-renowned Ordway Theater in St. Paul, Foxwoods Casino, and many additional outdoor festivals and events. They have released 11 CDs over their 12-year existence.
Paul LaRoche grew up as part of a white middle-class family in the small community of Worthington in southwest Minnesota. He was adopted at birth, and his talent for music was evident at an early age. Paul knew about his adoption but his true heritage was kept a secret. After Paul lost both of his adoptive parents in the same year, Paul's wife Kathy discovered his adoption papers. After several years of grieving and healing, a breakthrough came in 1993 when Paul discovered his biological Lakota family. His homecoming was a happy one and he was reunited with a brother, sister, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. The effect on his music career was monumental. Armed with the new knowledge of his heritage, Paul re-entered the world of music in the relatively new genre of contemporary Native American music. Mixing the traditional sounds of Native America with the music he grew up with, rock, pop, jazz and everywhere in between, Paul cut his first CD, We The People, and Brulé was born.
The SOAR years
In 1995 Paul signed a record deal with Sound of America Records. There he developed Brulé's first CDs. We the People, Lakota Piano, One Nation and collaboration with Robby Bee entitled One Holy Night were all produced in just four months. Upon returning home Paul and his family made the move to the Lower Brule Reservation where they still maintain a residence to this day. With only the bare necessities, Paul was about to set out on his new musical endeavor as a solo artist. But before he could walk out the door for his first live performance, his daughter Nicole offered to join and play the melodies on her flute, Brulé became a duo. Starting from nothing, Brulé worked the art show circuit slowly gaining exposure and a solid fan base. Nicole began to carve out her own sound and style and became the groups lead instrumentalist. Guitar and the traditional drum were soon added to the mix as the band started to form. In 1999 Paul and the band received their first of many awards, Paul was presented the 1999 "Outstanding Musical Achievement Award" by the First Americans in the Arts for One Nation.
Projects featuring Nicole
In 2001 Paul formed Buffalo Moon Productions with aim of featuring Nicole's flute playing on future CDs. Passion Spirit was released in 2001 featuring Nicole's unique style of flute playing. In 2002 Paul completed his next SOAR release entitled Star People. The title track from the CD quickly became a crowd favorite. Ten minutes in length, the fast paced song closes out every Brulé performance. In the same year Brulé won their first Native American Music Awards (NAMA or NAMMYS). Star People was honored as the Best Instrumental CD of 2002 while Brulé was named the Native American Group of the Year. By the end of 2002 Paul's son Shane had completed college and quickly joined the family business on guitar. By 2003 the band was steadily maintaining a schedule of over 70 performances a year including full stage productions with lights, video, and Native American dancers. Nicole also released her follow up CD to Passion Spirit entitled Night Tree. Night Tree also received a NAMA award for Best Instrumental CD in 2003. The band continued traveling and playing in 2004 but did not release a CD during the year, opting instead to prepare for multiple releases in 2005.
As the group began to slowly become independent, Paul expanded Buffalo Moon Productions by introducing AIRO (American Indian Rock Opera) as an extension of the Brulé name. Performing for years under Paul's recording name, AIRO gave identity to the rest of the band members and the dance troupe. Paul was now able to record music with his whole band under AIRO. In 2005 Tatanka became AIRO's first release. Featuring an up-tempo rock sound Tatanka became an instant hit. Shortly after Tribal Rhythm was released. A more easy listening sound, Tribal Rhythm features Shane and the classical nylon string guitar, a new instrument for the group. In 2006 AIRO won its first NAMA for Group of the Year for Tatanka. Brulé also won that year for Best Compilation album for The Collection. As the summer wore on the group began to produce a long awaited follow up to One Holy Night. When One Holy Night was released it was a ground breaking CD, the first to introduce Contemporary Native American Holiday music. Now able to use Brulé & AIRO together, Paul and the group released the new CD Silent Star Night in the fall of 2006. Taking the sound from One Holy Night a step further, Silent Star Night was the music featured in the band's 2006 holiday tour, the bands largest and most successful tour to date. Covering nine cities, the full stage production featured new video, dancers and lighting.
2007 and beyond
2007 ushered in a history making year for the group, Paul released his final CD for SOAR entitled Kinship, and Paul was able to realize a lifelong dream for Brulé & AIRO. On July 13 and 14, 2007 the group presented the "Brulé & AIRO Concerts for Reconciliation of the Cultures at Mount Rushmore" Performed at the Mount Rushmore Amphitheater at the base of the monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Performed in front of record crowds of 5,000 people the first night and over 6,000 the second night, the concerts featured the band's full stage production with special guests. Paul shared his story and his goals of peace, hope and reconciliation between the cultures. Both concerts were professionally filmed for a future broadcast on South Dakota public television and on other PBS affiliates across the country. On October 6, 2007 the 9th annual NAMA Awards were held. Brulé & AIRO were nominated for a record five awards and received two. For the second straight year they were honored with Group of the Year, this time for Silent Star Night, and Kinship received the Best New Age Recording Award. Silent Star Night was also nominated for an Aboriginal People's Choice Awards held in Canada. In November 2007 the group released the third installment of the Nicole CDs featuring Nicole LaRoche on flute. Entitled Deep Dreams the CD adds a new sound to the extensive Brulé & AIRO collection. On December 2, 2007 the first broadcast of "Brulé & AIRO Concerts for Reconciliation of the Cultures at Mount Rushmore" was presented as part of South Dakota's Public Television Pledge Drive. Two thirds of the concert were aired while viewers were encouraged to make a pledge to SDPB. A DVD of the Mount Rushmore concerts as well as a live audio CD of the concert were offered as gifts to those who made pledges. The DVD and CD, along with a documentary of the making of the concert will be made available for sale to the public around the 1st of the year.