Navajo language song earns band first NAMA nomination

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, March 7, 2013

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(Courtesy photo)

Native American Music Award nominee Saving Damsels include, from left to right, Douglas Bellen (keyboard), Joe Pacheco (bass), JJ Otero (lead singer and rhythm guitar), Chuck Hawley (lead guitar) and Marcus Ridge (drums).




S elf-proclaimed "Native soul rock" band Saving Damsels has received its first Native American Music Award nomination for Best Rock Group Recording for their album "Find My Way."

Saving Damsels members said this was the first year they chose to enter the NAMAs because they felt their sound was finally good enough to submit.

"I believe that we are a pretty good band, and we have been waiting to get the recognition," said bassist Joe Pacheco. "It's a really big honor to be in the same categories of all these other Native American musicians, and be recognized alongside them."

Keyboardist Douglas Bellen said that Saving Damsels uses the term Native soul rock to identify its sound because "there's a lot of music out there without a lot of soul, and without a lot of connection with people."

Bellen said he feels their music is able to achieve that because it connects with people.

Saving Damsels' sound is a mixture of rock, soul, country, and the blues.

"It's kind of like a mishmash of personalities that came together to make this music," said JJ Otero, front man.

Saving Damsels song "Protected (Beauty All Around)" is the song they submitted to the NAMAs to represent their album. This song is sung entirely in Navajo.

"I face the sunrise and pray. I am the child of the Holy People. I am not great. The things that were said against me have lost their power. They have turned to goodness," Otero translates the main verse from the song.

Otero's father Chester Otero is also a vocal presence in the song, singing in a more traditional manner.

"It's different than anything I have ever heard," said Otero about "Protected" because the strong guitar presence allows people to feel the song.




"It's just me trying to connect with people," Otero said about the songs he writes for Saving Damsels. "I am trying to write a song from my heart."

Added Bellen, "We felt that ("Protected") was the best that we had to offer."

Saving Damsels was founded in 2007, but its current lineup dates back just to 2011.

Saving Damsels consists of Bellen, Pacheco, and Otero along with lead guitarist Chuck Hawley and drummer Marcus Ridge.

Otero and Pacheco are the only two original members of Saving Damsels, but Otero said now that the band has a different lineup the music has a different feel to it.

"We have a powerful stage presence and we have a bigger sound," Bellen said.

According to the Native American Music Association website, the NAMAs is an award show that honors national recordings by Native American artists that have been released in the previous calendar year.

"Nominees are submitted and selected by our national advisory membership consisting of individuals directly involved in recording, manufacturing, distributing and promoting Native American music nationally.

"Winners are selected by a combined vote by our national Advisory membership and the general public who can listen and vote to the tracks of our nominees on our website Native American Music Awards Inc.," the website states.

To cast a vote for any of the nominated musicians visit www.nativeamericanmusicawards.com.

For more information on the Saving Damsels visit their Facebook page or www.savingdamsels.com.

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