Daily Sitka Sentinel
Inaiah Lujan listed Hank Williams, Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter family – with their three-part harmonies – as key influences, but added the Beatles, Django Reinhart, Bob Dylan and Neil Young as others.
“We’re music lovers,” Lujan said. “We’re not afraid to throw other things into the pot.”
Lujan, who spoke to the Sentinel from his home in Pueblo, Colo., will bring his group to Sitka for a concert to lead off this year’s ArtiGras arts festival.
The Haunted Windchimes will play 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi. A workshop is set for noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Blatchley Middle School. The concert is sponsored by Sitka Folk and the Greater Sitka Arts Council.
Ted Howard, a local musician and volunteer, said he considers the Haunted Windchimes to be part of the group of young people revitalizing Americana-style music. Band members in Haunted Windchimes are 33 and younger.
“It’s the kind of music I like to play,” Howard said. “It’s a bluesy, folksy, country mix of stuff.”
The Haunted Windchimes played on a Prairie Home Companion radio show, where host Garrison Keillor described the group as “Popular among the grey hairs, green hairs, purple hairs and all over.”
The roots of the Haunted Windchimes are with Inaiah Lujan, guitar and vocals, and his girlfriend, Desirae Garcia, baritone ukulele. A year later Inaiah’s sister, Chela, added banjo to the mix, and then Sean Fanning was recruited to play bass. The final element was added at a music festival in Colorado Springs, when the four were invited to play on stage with Mike and Todd Clark.
“There was an immediate chemistry,” Inaiah Lujan said. Mike Clark joined the band, adding mandolin, harmonica, concertina, fiddle and guitar to the group’s depth.
The band has been touring since 2006, and is set to release a new album, “Out With the Crow.” Inaiah Lujan said the group plans to play a number of selections from the album in the Sitka show. It will be first time in Alaska for everyone in the band.
Inaiah and Chela grew up in a musical family; their father had taken flamenco guitar in college and their mother was “always spinning vinyl.” The family lived on a Navajo reservation in Colorado, where their father was a special education teacher and cross country running coach, and their mother was a nurse. As a Latino growing up on the reservation, Inaiah said it was sometimes a struggle to find their place among the mostly Native American population.
“But I feel we came out well-rewarded from the experience,” Inaiah said. “I feel blessed. We had two or three teachers who encouraged us to continue to pursue music, and gave us moral support.”
Inaiah took up the piano at the age of three, and studied for seven years, enjoying the works of Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart and Bach.
“Then I found rock and roll and guitar, and that changed directions for me,” he said.
His sister took up the guitar at age 12 but had been singing long before that.
“She didn’t do anything seriously but she would run around the house, making up songs all day,” Inaiah Lujon said. “She always had a musical itch.”
The two collaborated for an album, “The Mexican,” written by their older brother, and went on tour. Shortly later, they formed the Haunted Windchimes. Inaiah is now 28, and Chela is 25, and the group has been together for six years.
Howard said Sitka Folk was looking for a “young, energetic” group to play here, and this group definitely fit the bill.
Sitka Folk President Lon Garrison agreed.
“I haven’t heard them live, but we’ve heard recordings and I’ve talked to friends in Colorado who’ve seen the band, and they said they were just great,” Garrison said. The group was recommended to Garrison by someone who arranges concerts for a number of bands.
“He was pretty excited about these guys,” Garrison said. “We wanted to have a group come up full of good energy and be a good kickoff for ArtiGras. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Inaiah said he is looking forward to seeing the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi performing space, and playing for a Sitka audience.
“If we have our way in a perfect world, our show is best unplugged and going with the flow,” he said. “Generally I come up with a song list, I like to walk around, and feel the energy of the room.”
He said the latest album, which has not yet been released, will figure heavily into the show but otherwise the group plans to be flexible and “keep an open mind” about everything else.
Tickets for the show are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors if purchased in advance at Old Harbor Books or online at sitkafolk.org. Tickets are $5 more at the door. The workshop cost is $20.