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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 29, 2003 - Issue 101


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Pamyua's Live Album Wins Record of Year at Native Music Awards

credits: Pamyua is Stephen and Phillip Blanchett, Ossie Kairaiuak and Karina Moeller. "Pamyua," pronounced BUM-yo-ah, is Yup'ik for "encore."

Pamyua is Stephen and Phillip Blanchett, Ossie Kairaiuak and Karina Moeller. "Pamyua," pronounced BUM-yo-ah, is Yup'ik for "encore." The Anchorage-based quartet Pamyua took top honors Saturday night at the Native American Music Awards in Albuquerque, N.M., when a live album they recorded at the 4th Avenue Theatre in 2002, called "Caught in the Act," was named record of the year.

The win took the musicians by surprise. In fact, they were so sure they'd been passed over for the honor that brothers Phillip and Stephen Blanchett weren't even in their auditorium seats. They were in the lobby, negotiating a future gig, when they got word.

"I opened the door and saw Karina (Moeller) and Ossie (Kairaiuak) on stage, and everyone was laughing," Phillip Blanchett said of his band mates. "I did our seal call -- Woohoo! Woohoo! -- and ran up, flapping my arms like a bird."

The award is the first Nammy for Pamyua (pronounced BUM-yo-ah) and the first for an Alaska artist in the six years of the award. More than 140 recordings were submitted for 2003 Nammy consideration. Finalists were announced in October.

"Caught in the Act" was nominated for three 2003 Nammys -- best duo/group, best pop/rock recording, and record of the year -- but the group didn't think they had a chance at winning any of them when they arrived at Saturday's event. Winners don't sit in general admission. The theater housing the Nammys seats 3,000, and Pamyua was assigned to watch the show from the next to last row.

"Aw, man, I couldn't believe it. I was actually upset," Stephen Blanchett said from his Anchorage home Monday. "We already had a doubtful feeling, but we knew we definitely wouldn't win now. They wouldn't put anyone who won in the back."

But before the group could polish the "It's an honor just to be nominated" routine, Pamyua was called to the stage and the joke was on them.

"I saw (NAMA director) Donald Kelly backstage, and he said 'I gotcha!' " Stephen Blanchett said, laughing. "He said, 'You didn't think you'd win, did you?' I didn't."

"Caught in the Act" was released in April. Pamyua's CD debut was "Mengluni" in 1998. The title is Yup'ik for "the beginning." Pamyua's second album, "Verses," was released in late 2000 and earned the group a 2001 Nammy nomination for best world music recording.

Pamyua formed eight years ago as a Blanchett duo but was a foursome within a year. The group has since grown popular in Alaska and on the world music festival circuits with its blend of traditional Native song, drum and dance performance, Yup'ik storytelling and contemporary world music. The group also has heavy influences in R&B, funk, jazz, doo-wop and gospel.

That musical diversity and Pamyua's vibrant performance energy are showcased on the aptly titled "Caught in the Act."

"We really wanted to show people the evolution of the music we were making," Stephen Blanchett said. "And it really captured what we do onstage. I think people still remember that night."

And the group will always remember the night it had the worst seats in the house.

"It's amazing. We went out of there feeling like we won the award," Phillip Blanchett said. "We just accomplished something that is at the very top. We are so honored to have our names in the record book."

The Blanchetts said Pamyua will perform locally in December but the event is still in the planning phase. The group is also conceptualizing its fourth album, but there are no firm recording or release dates.

To read a complete list of the Nammy Winners, click here.

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