Inuit soul music group Pamyua bring yuraq and song to Dillingham on Saturday

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The event was organized by the Dillingham Arts Council, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Beaver Creek Bed and Breakfast and the Dillingham City School District.

Tickets are $5 for students and seniors, $10 for adults, and $15 for families. Alaska Native youth who are members of any tribe can attend for free, thanks to a donation from the Curyung Tribal Council. Cash only for ticket payment.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Philippe Blanchet: Hello, hello, my name is Philip Blanchett. And I’m with Pamyua and excited to come to Dillingham and play this weekend.

Qacung Blanchett: And hello everyone. Hi there. It’s Qacung. Super happy, super excited to go to Dillingham. It’s been a long time and it’s one of my favorite places we’ve traveled to in Alaska. So it’s going to be a great weekend for us.

Members of Pamyua perform Squirrel Trap at KDLG studio. September 23, 2022.

Izzy Ross: Thank you both very much for being here. Guess we’ll dive into it. What can people expect at this Saturday’s event in Dillingham?

Philip: As Steve said, we’ve had such great times at Dillingham in the past. I think it’s probably one of the communities we’ve traveled the most to in Alaska over the years – at Beaver Round Up and playing in the community. And it’s always a great homecoming, even though we’re not from Dillingham you know, it’s Yup’ik territory. And we are inspired by the love and relationship we have with people and amplification traditions, Yupik traditions and old school traditions, and community is always a big celebration for us at Dillingham. So we expect a lot of excitement, positive energy, smiling faces, laughter, dancing. And we’re going to be bringing some of our musician friends that we’ve worked with for many years, so we as a band are going to have a great time playing together and sharing that experience with everyone. So it’s just a lot of fun, basically.

Izy: Pamyua’s music is so prolific in Alaska. I know you’ve spoken many times over the years about the roots of your music and the beginnings of the band. But for those who don’t know, can you explain how you all became a band and what you pursue through your music?

Qacung: Yes, I think the roots of our music are really tied to the love we have for Yuraq – it’s our dance practice. This has been the basis from the start. All of us, as a core – being myself, Kilirnguq
and Ossie [Kairaiuak] – we have that love for our dance, and that’s really a big part of what people will see in the show as well. But this foundation and this familiarity that we have with our home stories, and the beautiful compositions that we have been able to share over the years – compositions by prolific music makers like John Pingayak and Teddy Sundown and Cecilia Foxy, and Ossie, Kilirnguq, myself. These very beautiful interpretations of our old ancient stories, but putting them in a different light, in a more contemporary soundscape derived from these old traditional stories. So that’s a big part of it.

So what are the driving forces we have for this. Just kind of puts us in a direction that we’re always trying to look for new ways to interpret our stories, even with the masks. The masks that we use on our show, that’s something they’ll see too. The masks were one of those parts of the dance that went really really fast when the dance was banned and suppressed by the missionaries. The masks were one of those elements of the dance that quickly disappeared. And it hasn’t really come back to the way it was before. Dance has had this statewide revival, but masked dancing, not so much. So we’re really lucky to work with amazing masters – mask makers like Drew Michael – who have this understanding of – they make masks much like we make music. You just have to push the boundaries of what tradition is.

KDLG’s Izzy Ross spoke to a few members of Pamyua the day before the concert. September 23, 2022.

Izy: Clearly, the past week has been very difficult for many communities in western Alaska, especially along the coast. Dillingham was unaffected by the storm, but I would still love to hear your thoughts on the role of music and the role of this kind of performance following difficult events like what we saw this weekend. end with the storm.

Philip: From my perspective, our traditions have been there forever, and they are so rich and varied in terms of the impact it has on our communities and on our people. And it’s a really powerful way of healing through our prayer intention. Also just sharing those emotions of laughing and teasing when we are going through difficulties. And traditionally, the songs that we make — it’s not just entertainment. These are songs that are directly related to our environment, and directly related to the role that we have, that we come to share. We get to share this world. And it’s about honoring that the way our ancestors did and enjoyed it. Doing this today is so logical and so powerful. That’s why it’s such an honor for us to share this tradition, because our ancestors knew what they were doing. They had a great form of sharing our stories, our philosophy, our love for our community and our awareness of the environment. And in this time when we’re going through such big changes and dramatic events and really serious times of loss and trauma, it’s the perfect time for us to share these things within our culture that are uplifting and looking for a better way to live in balance. And we can still do it.

Izy: I look forward to speaking again once you are in Dillingham. But last question: could you share a favorite song or a song that you are listening to at the moment and that you really enjoy?

Qacung: It’s a good one. I guess for me, I’m really into… gosh, Native hip hop right now. Like hip hop, you know, rap, it’s a kind of music that I like and listen to, and then I walk away too. And I walked away from hip hop for a while, almost since the 90s, right? Since that prolific era of hip hop and its golden age. And so I’ve had this love for this music, so more recently I haven’t connected with it so much. But I really connected with artists like Def-i who is a Diné
hip hop artist. He just released the new album, and I really am. And there are several native hip-hop artists and groups that are really killing it right now, like Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Supaman. But I’m really connected with this artist Diné Def-i. Certainly, listeners, check it out. It might even take you back to hip hop.

Philip: While Qacung was talking, I looked at my iPhone. And there are two things. One, my four year old son this morning wanted to listen to “Be Prepared” from The Lion King. So the last thing on my phone is “Be Prepared” from The Lion King Live, which is intense and dope. But it’s funny that you mentioned hip hop – I’ve been listening to Kendrick Lamar a lot lately and I’ve been inspired by how he, on his latest album, shares a very strong emotional courage. Sharing vulnerable messages that aren’t so common in this form of storytelling or in pop music, and talking about sexual abuse and challenging cultural stigmas that we believe illustrate who we are and who we are, but break down some of those barriers and really nice to push that. I really like the size of the heart part. I mean, I was trying to pick a song, but it’s a good song. So Kendrick Lamar.

Izy: Wow, there’s so much going on that I really want to talk about. Specifically “Be Prepared” from The Lion King is a really intense song. We are not going there at the moment. But it’s really cool. Thank you very much to both of you, quyana, for taking the time to speak today. I’m really looking forward to being at the concert and traveling safely.

Find out more on the group’s website.

Contact the author at [email protected] or 907-842-2200.

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