Being the daughter of two lovers of music, I was forced to play an instrument at a young age. Fifth grade was the year when my elementary school provided band and orchestra instruments for us to try out. I chose the trumpet that day, and have been playing ever since. In my life, music is more than just pleasurable sound; it acts as a magnet- attracting similar people together, and a glue-instilling those friendships. The majority of my best friends, are musically inclined in some way- it’s what originally brought us together. With that being said, I love listening to and playing music. As much as I’d like to think I am musically cultured, I don’t think I ever gave American Indian music a listening to. With that realization conveniently realized while being enrolled in this class, I have decided to write about something that I’ve never heard of nor thought of before: the Native American Music Awards.
Established in 1998, the Native American Music Awards (the Nammys) is a fairly recent event featuring America’s indigenous people. The Nammys were created to preserve the American Indian culture and celebrate and respect the heritage on a national level. The first ever Native American Music Award show was held in 1998 at Foxwoods in Connecticut. Attracting a crowd of 1500 people, the newly founded tradition was off to a great, yet local, start. Changing locations throughout the years, this annual event is primarily housed in the southwest, where it draws the largest crowds from all over the country.
Surprisingly enough, all of the performers and stage crews are volunteers. The listeners’ membership fees provide enough money for the event to take place yearly. Though this music festival was not originally meant to be a competition, awards are given out through an audience voting process. Some awards featured are: “the funniest performance”, “the performance with the best hair”, “the best performance”, and “the best presenter”.
With such an earthy and original sound, Native American music is a genre of its own. However, some performances sound more modern than many of us would think. Traditional Native American music, with dominating vocals, percussion, and flute, is still heavily featured in these festivals, but is not the only type of music presented. The younger generations of Native American musicians incorporate more modern sounds and beats with hip hop and pop themes. Looking through the Nammys website, which I will provide for all of you, my interest has really been sparked. Browsing on Youtube for recordings of live Native American Music Award performances, I’ve posted one of my favorites for all of you to watch and appreciate. The video is one of Arvel Bird’s performances. This video was not straight from the Nammys, but he is a known Nammy Award winner and performs his music all over the country. He blends traditional Native American music with more modern music, and creates a beautiful product. Who knows, maybe this summer I’ll take a road trip and watch him and the rest of the performers live at the Nannys!!