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Native musician from Grand Coulee nominated for major awards

Courtesy of Faran Sohappy

Faran Sohappy's "Not Looking Back" is up for three Native American Music Awards.

Grand Coulee, Washington singer Faran Sohappy is making waves in the Native music community. He recently learned that his new album, “Not Looking Back,” is up for Native American Music Awards in three categories. They are the Native version of the Grammies and he’s one of a handful of eastern Washington residents to be nominated.

Today’s popular music made by Native American musicians covers a broad range of genres, from hip hop to country to traditional. The latter is Faran Sohappy’s sweet spot.

“I specialize mainly in powwow music because I myself am a powwow singer and a composer," Sohappy said. “A lot of it is acapella but I do use drums in some of them, powwow-style drums, hand drums.”

The Yakama tribal member is nominated in the Best Pow Wow, Honor Tribute Song, and Traditional Recordings categories. He plays all of the instruments and does all of the recordings himself, though he collaborates with two engineers to polish up the songs before they’re released.

This is Sohappy’s second nomination for a Native American Music Award. Three years ago he collaborated with Chicago singer/songwriter Joan Hammel on a song she wrote as part of a fellowship program. For several months she was based in eastern Washington and, when she went looking for someone to record her song, she found Sohappy.

Hammel’s song was a finalist in the contest’s Best Folk Recordings category. It didn’t win, but it earned Sohappy a trip to Buffalo, New York to attend the awards ceremony and a chance to rub elbows with big names in the Native music community. They include fellow Washingtonian James Pakootas, who won that night.

“When they were announced that they were the winners, I had nothing to do with that group, but I felt like I won with him because we’re from the same hometown and it was so exciting to see because James and I, our lives are very similar, our paths are very similar and to see him succeed now is just awesome because the typical stereotype is that no one from the Rez is going to make it," Sohappy said.

He is still working to get to that level, but his accomplishments are nonetheless impressive. He has produced two albums of his own music and is working on a third. He distributed them through a record label he created calls “Music and Beyond.”

One thing he says he’s learned through this journey is how big the Native music industry has become.

“The show ‘Reservation Dogs’ on FX, they use a lot of different Native music. ‘Yellowstone’, the show, they use some Native music. There are just so many different things," Sohappy said.

The Northwest has its share of prominent Native musicians. That became clear to him at the Native awards ceremony in 2019.

“There’s this gal I met there. She was from Moses Lake. I had no idea that she was from Moses Lake. She told us, you guys have probably never heard of Moses Lake. And my boss, his office was there. It’s where I have to go at times. Small world," he said.

Now that opportunities are opening up, Sohappy says Native musicians like himself, many of them known on their reservations but nowhere else, need to take advantage of them.

“Everybody kind of kept to themselves, except for the mainstream artists. They knew how to manage their music and get it out there whereas us, who are out here in a smaller circle, are just now learning to expand," he said.

Win or lose, Faran Sohappy is glad to get a little more time in the limelight and to see if he can help other Native musicians do the same.

“It’s my time to showcase my skills. It’s my time to bring out new artists that never thought they would be out here," he said.

The winners of the Native American Music Awards are determined by fan voting. Sohappy is asking his social media supporters to cast ballots for him in hopes that next time the awards ceremony is convened, his name will be one that’s called.

List of NW Native music awards nominees:

Best Debut Artist: Charles Joseph Woods III (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla)

Best Debut Group or Duo: Blue Flamez and YL (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs)

Pop Recording: Blue Flamez (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs)

Best R&B Recording: Blue Flamez X Kaos (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs); Bigg B (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs)

Best Rap Hip Hop Recording: Blue Flames (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs)

Best Pow Wow/Drum Songs Recording: Charles Joseph Woods (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla); Faran Sohappy (Yakama) "Not Looking Back"

Best Traditional Recording: Faran Sohappy (Yakama) "Not Looking Back"

Best Honor Song/Tribute Song: Faran Sohappy [Yakama] "For Grams and Gramps"

Single of the Year: Kori Thornton (Colville/Arrow Lakes Band of Turtle Clan) "Straight Up"; Kalliah and BlackWater (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs)

Best Country Video: Linda McKenzie and Gen Huitt (Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes)

Best Collaboration in a Video: KnowMadic Mind (Colville Confederated Tribes) "DreamCatcher Visions"; Just Jamez, featuring Maura Garcia (Colville Confederated Tribes) "Horizons"

Best Rap Hip Hop Video: Blue Flamez (Warm Springs); G.O.R.I.L.L.A Jay (Yakama) "The Break Up"

Best Contemporary Vocal Video: Tony Louie (Colville) "Drifter Soul"

Best Live Performance Video: Tony Louie (Colville) "Drifter Soul"

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.