Grantee: Stephen Qacung Blanchett
Native Citizenship: Yup’ik
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Award: 2015 National Artist Fellowship
Web Site: www.pamyua.com
Stephen Qacung Blanchett has played with the award-winning, self-styled tribal funk/world music band Pamyua for more than twenty years. The band brings synergy and fusion to traditional Yup’ik songs and dances that are reinterpreted with contemporary influences to create an exceptional sound. This approach coincides with Blanchett’s own philosophy that music bridges tradition from the past to the present with future nuances.
The 2015 National Artist Fellowship award is recognition of Blanchett’s talent and his desire to grow professionally as a solo artist. He would like to produce a solo album of Yup’ik and English songs. He already has a team of collaborators in the works.
During his career, Stephen Qacung Blanchett has had the opportunity to record songs and stories from many villages in Alaska. He produced the first ever Alaska Native traditional music album. He’s co-produced music and film projects: Caught In The Act, won Record of the Year at the Native American Music Awards in 2003; Verses was nominated for Best World Music Album; and the documentary Unipkaat—Our Stories was screened at several film festivals.
Blanchett’s mixed cultural heritage has spurred his artistic development. A strong Yup’ik mother raised him in an extremely traditional life, and a strong African-American father taught him Black heritage pride. In order express his musical voice, Blanchett had to first blend and mix his own stories and life experiences.
Today Blanchett’s Yup’ik community in Alaska is the greatest influence upon his artistic expression. He explains that the way Yup’ik compose songs and dances are from ideas, and these ideas are shared in the camaraderie of storytelling about past and present experiences and events. Stories and dances evolve as a way to entertain, tease, teach values and explain natural mysteries. As long as a new generation learns these songs and dances, then what was once forbidden by early 20th century religious conversions will once again flourish. Blanchett will continue teaching music and performing in school tours hoping to inspire a next generation of musical artists.
I love to bring a synergy and a fusion of traditional Yup’ik song and dances with contemporary music and sound.
~ Stephen Qacung Blanchett