Bethel is known for its taxi services. In fact, the city is estimated to have one cab for every 84 individuals.
Yet I stood in the blowing snow on Thursday morning outside of the Bethel airport and could not for the life of me figure out how the Taxi system worked in Bethel. Despite my freezing extremities and flight fatigue, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.
My village trip to Bethel was certainly a stand-out experience among my months as a KNOM volunteer. The whole setup was not only fulfilling on a personal level but was in addition to that, strangely off beat from the rest of my time as a volunteer. First off, to call my experience a village trip isn’t entirely correct. Afterall Bethel, Alaska is composed of a population that more than doubles that of Nome. You’ll find within its borders a nationally known chain restaurant, hardware stores, paved roads, and even a stoplight intersection if you really look for it. Not unlike a normally ordained KNOM village trip, I was there for a very important mission – to collect Native Drum & Dance music from the annual Cama-i festival.
(Cama-i – pronounced chum-eye. A word meaning, “A Warm Hello”.)
Native Alaskan music is a very important part of KNOM’s daily programming. On my show alone you can hear several Native Songs from the like of Hooper Bay, St. Lawrence Island, Unalakleet and many more paired back to back with the rest of our musical catalog. I feel it is so important to feature Native songs in this way. At the end of the day, I hope a very special message comes across with these songs. I want people to know how important this music is, how much life and knowledge they hold. They should be treated with respect while simultaneously being enjoyed as any other kind of music even if it isn’t embraced by the masses and were never part of the charting music world. The vibrancy they hold can’t be measured on any sales chart.
By the end of the third day of the festival I had collected over 100 Native Drum and Dance songs ranging anywhere from 45 second pieces to 15 minute musical sets. As I write I am organizing and burning all of this music to cd so that it can be shared with Western Alaska for years to come. Just another awesome week as Music Director.