NAMMYs 'boogie oogie' into New Mexico night
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From pop to rock, from traditional to country, Native music was the name of the game at the fourth annual NAMMYs held this past Saturday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Beneath the stars and with the Sandia Mountains, considered sacred to this year's host -- Sandia Pueblo -- as the backdrop, an animated Rodney A. Grant welcomed music lovers from all over the world to the Native American Music Awards. Even as the temperature dipped like only a New Mexico autumn evening can, the night warmed up with performances, dances and of course, honors for some of the top talent in the Native music world.

Kicking off the show were two performances, particularly noteworthy in the wake of September 11's terrorist attacks, which were a frequent topic of the night as the World Trade Center tragedy directly affected the NAMMY association. Appearing with her grandmother, former Miss Navajo Nation Radmilla Cody gave a rousing rendition of the national anthem, sung entirely in Dineh.

Oneida songstress Joanne Shenandoah, flutist Robert Vasquez and acapella group Walela followed with a somber rendition of "Amazing Grace." Part of it was sung by Walela in Cherokee, and the audience joined in for part.

As far as awards, the big winner of the night was Taos Pueblo's Robert Mirabal. He took home not one but three honors: the coveted Artist of the Year award, Record of the Year and Songwriter of the Year for Music from a Painted Cave. Currently on a nationwide tour to support the release, which was also a PBS special, Mirabal was unable to attend the ceremony and accepted his award through a pre-taped video segment.

Mirabal's absence was more than made up by appearances by some of Indian Country's most well-known, and up and coming, names. Party and pow-wow favorite Keith Secola, whose "Homeland" won the NAMMY for Best Instrumental Recording, took to the stage with a mini-supergroup featuring Jim Densmore, legendary drummer for The Doors, and Cody.

Yarina, a Quechan Indian group, was another highlight, performing a blend of traditional and contemporary music from the Andes of Ecuador. Evern Ozan, an eight-year-old Osage / Anglo / Turkish flutist, was given NAMMYs Rising Star award and wowed the crowd with an improvised performance due to a backstage technical glitch.

A special honor was in store for country music legend Crystal Gayle, inducted into the NAMMY Hall of Fame. The part-Cherokee singer performed an unreleased song and "Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue," which won her a GRAMMY.

"I think I'm speechless," she said upon receiving her award. "This is such an honor just being out here and being part of something that I feel so much a part of. It's so special."

Navajo flutist R. Carlos Nakai, whose countless catalog has inspired millions worldwide, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. For him, he said he dedicated his life to preserving Native culture, determined not to let the Indian way of life become "an article to be auctioned."

"The reservation system took a lot of our culture away, but it's alive again," he said.

Kickapoo / Creek singer Arigon Starr grabbed another top award for "Junior Frybread." Taken from her latest release, "Wind-Up," the whimsical song naturally took the Song of the Year category.

"I am so pleased and so happy that my music has touched people," she said after the show.

Starr could be found among the crowd at the end of the ceremony, dancing the night away to a rather appropriate "Boogie Oogie Oogie." Flutist Robert Tree Cody, this year's Best Male Artist, took to the stage with A Taste of Honey founder Janice Marie, of Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican ancestry, as they performed the 70s classic and capped off another year of the NAMMYs.

For a list of the rest of the night's winners, visit the NAMMY site at

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