Áak'w Rock: Celebrating Indigenous Music
A celebration of Indigenous music and culture got underway in Juneau this Thursday, packed with three days of music and 25 different acts.
Organizers say it’s the only global Indigenous music festival in the United States, and it all takes place in Juneau on Lingít Aaní, the heart of the Lingít homeland.
This is the second Áak'w Rock Music Festival, which is held biennially.
This year, it features 35 cultures from around the world.
Some the headliners are well known — Native American groups like Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Samantha Crain, a Choctaw Indie pop singer. There are a lot of Alaska Native performers in the line-up, including Toksook Bay rapper Byron Nicholai and Witty Youngman, an Anchorage blues singer with Inupiaq and Dakota heritage.
Stephen “Qacung” Blanchett, the creative director for the festival, says Áak'w Rock has performances on multiple stages, as well as jam sessions.
“We're not going to have seats like the traditional seats. We're going to have places where people can just chill out," Qacung said, speaking on Juneau Afternoon, a radio show on KTOO.
"You might be able to hang out on a piece of like sea otter fur and just kind of lay out and relax — or maybe even smudge with some sage," Qacung said. "I'm imagining something organic, just amazing magic being made," he said.
“Qacung” is one of the founders of the festival and a member of Pamyua, a Yup’ik group from Southwest Alaska.
He says the purpose of Áak'w Rock is to lift up Indigenous voices, connect with new audiences and inspire the next generation of musicians.
The name for “Áak'w Rock” comes from the “Áak'w Kwáan,” which means “People of the Little Lake” in the Lingít language. It’s co-sponsored by the Tlingit & Haida Tribes and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.