Greeley wins Native American Music Award
For the second consecutive year, a Warm Springs musician has won a coveted Native American Music Award.
Flutist James Edmund Greeley, 48, claimed the top award for "Best Traditional Recording" for his album, "Before America," at the 17th annual NAMA in Niagara Falls, New York, at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino on Oct. 14.
Last year, Scott Kalama, also known as Blue Flamez, of Warm Springs, won Best Music Video for "Rez Life." Both Kalama and Greeley are represented by Ibori Records, an independent label based in Portland.
"I was introduced to Ibori Records two years ago by Scott Kalama," said Greeley. "It's a brand new label that just came out, and right off the bat, it has won two NAMAs, back to back."
Greeley has been playing the flute for the past 20 years. "My first flute was gifted to my dad (Hamilton Greeley), and I pretty much took it upon myself," he explained. "Dad wasn't musically inclined; it would have been sitting on the wall collecting dust."
Always a fan of flute music, Greeley immediately took to the instrument. "I started playing Feb. 14, 1997, and taught myself in three days, at 20 minutes a day," he said.
"Native flute music has been here 3,000 years plus," said Greeley. "Long ago, the deity Kokopa aka Kokopelli crossed paths with my Hopi Nations in the Southwest of America. His melodies and chants were from various wooden flutes and bone whistles. The rain would fall and bring harvest and fertility among the Hopi people."
Greeley performs "to enlighten and bring back my heritage for all nations and to all my relations."
In 2000, he performed at the Smithsonian National Museum of the Native American Indian, in New York City, and by 2007, he had completed his first CD, "Honoring the Supernatural." Greeley was nominated for numerous awards at the NAMA that year, including Flutist of the Year, Debut Artist, and Long-Version Video, but didn't win.
Ten years later, his second CD of original flute compositions — released in late 2016 — was submitted, and Greeley became a NAMA winner.
"I don't rehearse this music; I happen to feel like I'm a channel, or gateway," said Greeley. "It opens up like a doorway from somewhere; I know its beginning, middle and end."
Greeley spent most of his early years in Oregon, with his father, who has Warm Springs, Wasco and Nez Perce roots, but regularly visited his mother, the late Evelynn Mequatewa, of the Hopi tribe, in Hotvilla, Arizona. He attended Madras High School, but left in 1985 to attend Mt. Hood Community College, where he earned his GED at age 16.
While attending Mt. Hood, where he was majoring in English, "I used to play R. Carlos Makai's CDs," said Greeley, who was inspired by the world-renowned flutist. "It was good study music."
On the Warm Springs Reservation, Charles Littleleaf, flutist and flutemaker, was also an inspiration.
For Greeley's latest album, Rick Clifford, the former chief engineer at Death Row Records, provided artistic oversight. Tracking and mixing was by Chaz Mortimer, the founder of Ibori Records, mastering was by Yamio 263, and artwork was by Jamila Clarke.
Greeley is making plans to team up with Kalama on his next project. "Now we're looking to have a hiphop collaboration for the world music category for 2018 — for the Grammys," he said.
To purchase or listen to Greeley's music, go to www.ibori-records.com; scroll down and click on "learn more" about James Edmund Greeley.