Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA – The Anchorage-based quartet Pamyua took top honors Saturday night at the
Native American Music Awards in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 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.
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?’
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.”
“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.