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Culture brings groups together

Home, heart & tradition

Posted: Thursday, December 07, 2006

 

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  David Peter Jr., of Soldotna, practices the Alaskan high kick, a Native Youth Olympics event, last spring in Kenai. The Kenaitze NYO team will demonstrate their abilities prior to a concert by Pamyua on Saturday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Photo Courtesy of Michael Bernar

Pamyua will bring their blend of "tribal funk and world music" to Kenai on Saturday.

Photo courtesy of Pamyua

“We, as Pamyua, perform in many ways, one as an a cappella group in which traditional Inuit songs are mixed into a unique classification of sound. We’re creating a sound that has its own culture — it’s African, it’s Inuit. We have created a sound that will make you believe that there is an actual musical tradition for our mixed heritage.”

This artist statement from Pamyua’s Web site sums up the group’s musical style, which they describe as “tribal funk and world music.” The rhythms of traditional Inuit storytelling flow right into classic rhythm and blues grooves.

The quartet started off 10 years ago with Stephen and Phillip Blanchet, who are of Yup’ik Inuit and African American descent. They soon added Ossie Kairaiuak of Chefornak and the Greenlandic Inuit singer Karina Moller. They’ve been giving performances internationally since, and their third album, “Caught in the Act,” won Record of the Year at the 2003 Native American Music Awards.

Pamyua will give performance at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center at 7 p.m. Saturday. Proceeds of the event will go to assist the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s Native Youth Olympics team prepare for the state competition in Anchorage and the tribe’s youth program as a whole.

The team will give a demonstration of traditional Native Alaska athletic events prior to the performance.

Michael Bernard, coach for the Kenaitze Tribe’s team and the community liaison for the tribe, said he’s looking forward to the event.

“Their music was traditional, which was very inspiring. It’s not often that you hear a group go big time, I guess you’d call it, with traditional Alaskan music.”

Bernard has ties with he group from his days at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and felt it was particularly appropriate to feature Pamyua in conjunction with the NYO team, as Pamyua musician Stephen Blanchet has long supported the games.

The young athletes will be familiar with the group, as well. Bernard related a story about their experience with Pamyua at past games.

“There’s a little free time during state competition and during one of the free moments, they organized an impromptu dance. They started drumming and singing, and the whole floor down there in the Sullivan Arena, everybody was dancing to this Native song. It was really cool.”

 

David Peter Jr., of Soldotna, practices the Alaskan high kick, a Native Youth Olympics event, last spring in Kenai. The Kenaitze NYO team will demonstrate their abilities prior to a concert by Pamyua on Saturday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Bernar

The event will feature the NYO team, and Bernard hopes the opportunity will give them a sense of ownership in regard to their program.

There are a number of upcoming events driving the Kenaitze youth program’s fundraising efforts, including a craft fair at Kenai Middle School and a concert with Atz Kilcher, featuring the tribe’s Jabila’ina Dance Group.

In featuring the individual programs and their funding needs, Bernard’s goal is that the youth participants will learn a deeper sense of the tribal values that are important to the culture.

“It teaches the kids that it’s more like a traditional tribe, where folks would go out and they’d bring the resources back and everyone would benefit. Rather than Joe’s family catching a moose and Joe’s family, only, eats the moose,” he said.

“A long time ago, when it was more survival-oriented, people would go out and bring things back and the whole tribe would benefit.”

Bernard works with the team on this community approach. The important values are teamwork and personal growth. It is more important to him that youth build such skills, rather than focus on beating their individual opponents.

The youth athletes reflected these goals in writing.

“I love meeting new people, everyone is so friendly,” said Samantha Georges, 16, senior team captain. “Plus, I like watching other people do their events because it amazes me on how the human body can be so flexible or do things that you’d think would be impossible.”

The program focus is holistic. Bernard works with school principals, counselors and parents to help students make positive choices in all aspects of their young lives. The program is open to any student, regardless of size, shape, ability or background.

“What I’ve seen as coach over the last few years, is that any kid can come to our program, no matter what their physical ability or cultural background, and they can succeed,” he said. “ And they can go away from that feeling proud.”

Who, what, where ...

Pamyua and the Kenaitze tribe’s Native Youth Olympics team will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Advance tickets are available at the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and the Nakenu Family Center on Willow Street in Kenai, at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and by calling Bernard at 398-1510.



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