Medicine Dream tops night of music, dancing
Daily News Correspondent
(Published February 26, 2001)
Local music heroes Medicine Dream volunteered their time and talents Saturday evening for the second annual Ayya'm-i-Ha' Concert, a fund-raising event for the Alaska Native Heritage Center sponsored by the Baha'is of Alaska.
Kicking off four hours of musical and dance performances, Medicine Dream seemed right at home amid the center's intimate stage setting and the indigenous artifacts that decorate its interior.
The band's sound, which fuses traditional Native chants, vocalizations and instrumentation with contemporary pop and world beat rhythms, structures and melodies, resonated impeccably clearly throughout the gathering that filled the center. Narratives emphasizing the Native struggle and an embracing of indigenous ways of life poignantly set the tone for the entire evening.
Not lacking in spirit or energy, the band's 15-song set featured highlights from their two CD releases and premiered songs from their newest work being recorded in town this week. Two of the songs were so new they didn't have titles. The crowd responded with dancers of all ages filling the aisles.
One of the new songs, "Thousands of Years of Love," with its lilting acoustic passages, background chanting, and call and response vocals in the chorus, seemed the perfect emblem for the importance of the gathering: a celebration of heritage.
George Holly Jr. acted as the evening's emcee, filling the gaps between performances with stories and songs that revolved around the Athabaskan experience. Other performers included the Anchorage Baha'i Youth Workshop, whose two dance routines highlighted the theme of unity.
Medicine Dream's Paul Pike and Buz Daney then joined Peruvian singer Nico Torres for a short blast of folk music from his Andean homeland. The Miracle Drummers & Dancers sparked the crowd with their fan dances and songs in the Yup'ik language.
Daney found himself onstage once again as one of six drummers harnessing the rhythm and energies of the Yup'ik narratives. Dancers, who ranged in age from 6 to 60, brightened the surroundings with their colorful dress and brilliant feather fans.
An "Invitation" song lifted members of the audience to their feet again and had them filling the aisles with waving hands and bobbing heads.
Dr. Rita Blumenstein, a Yup'ik elder who has become the first certified traditional doctor in Alaska, and her husband were honored during the evening's events for inspiring compassion and love within Native communities. Blumenstein capped off the night with a prayer and song of healing that roused the crowd to the pervasive sense of unity that permeated the evening.
Bill Edwards studies literature at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He can be reached at NoGoDiggy@hotmail.com.
©Copyright 2001, Anchorage Daily News