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Pamyua headlines Arctic Fest concert

Phillip Blanchett, Stephen Blanchett and Ossie Kairaiuak dance in a performance by Pamyua.
Courtesy of Pamyua
Phillip Blanchett, Stephen Blanchett and Ossie Kairaiuak dance in a performance by Pamyua.

The Fairbanks Concert Association opens its 75th season tonight with a concert showcasing Alaska talent. The Inuit-soul band, Pamyua (Bum-yo-ah) is headlining the concert, which is part of Arctic Fest, and draws on the themes of science and art to address climate change.

Their show tonight will feature traditional songs, reinterpreted in their own style. The concert is a collaboration by the Fairbanks Concert Association, the University of Alaska and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at Herring Auditorium.

Alaskans are familiar with Pamyua (Bum-yo-ah) the Inuit-soul modern musical group that blends its own culture with influences from around the world. “Pamyua,” a Yup’ik word, means the “tail end of (something)” and is traditionally used to call “Encore, do it again!” during Inuit musical events or festivals.

But recently, the group has been asked to share with audiences in the lower 48. Ahead of playing in Fairbanks tonight, the group has just returned from a tour in the Midwest, California and Oregon.

Founder Phillip Blanchett says the group loves to tour.

“I hate to sound overly romantic, but it's an honor, you know, to travel, getting a chance to go to communities. We have never been before, and it's a big, big world, and it's nice to make it at least a little smaller with our experiences.”

The group is getting national and international attention. They were asked by the Library of Congress this year to provide a music video for the Library's "Homegrown Concert Series" for their American Folklife Center. The recording is now online in the library's permanent video archive.

And now the group is composing new music for the BBC’s documentary series "Life Below Zero: First Alaskans.”

Blanchett says they were given a lot of creative freedom to compose songs with a range of emotions.

“It is kind of a new thing for us. And we had never worked on a series where we're just making a soundtrack within this format. This reality show format. You don't make a score to the story we made about 30 songs for the show.”

Blanchett says group is proud to contribute new Indigenous music to a show about modern Indigenous people using traditional subsistence methods.

The series premiered May 31, and has already been renewed for a second season. So Pamyua was asked to score another 10 songs.

“We approach composing music, you know, with Pamyua it's always been a group, organic effort, creating arrangements and working with the creativity of other people, sharing with a capital "S."

Pamyua was founded in 1995 by Phillip Blanchett and his brother Stephen, and includes Ossie Kairaiuak (kai-RAI-yuck) and Karina Moeller.

It seems natural they would be asked to headline the artistic showcase for Arctic Fest, an event marrying science and creativity to address climate change.

“Within our culture is not only the people that you're enjoying time with. It's about honoring the animals and the environment that brings so much happiness.”

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.