Meet the young Alaska Native making music from Kalskag

Martin Paul is a young Alaska Native from a village. He makes music that he hopes brings peace...
Martin Paul is a young Alaska Native from a village. He makes music that he hopes brings peace and joy to those who listen to it. This is a photo of him and his guitar.(Martin Paul)
Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 12:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - What started off as something to pass the time during the coronavirus pandemic has turned into a creative outlet for a young Alaska Native.

Martin Paul, 17, from Kalskag, Alaska, says he picked up a guitar at his home with his grandparent’s house and started strumming.

“My grandparents are very strict about me not going out and visiting other people and all that kind of stuff,” Martin said. “So I was stuck at home and the only thing I was able to do was to go out and go on a run or something.”

Then he found a guitar sitting in the corner of his grandparent’s home.

“I was like ’Hey can I bring this in my room and play it?’ and they were like ’Oh yeah sure.’”

He then went on to learn to play guitar all by himself, which turned out to be a challenging task given internet connectivity problems in his village. Martin went to his uncle’s house and on his phone, he took screenshots of guitar tabs, downloaded a guitar app and started to learn the guitar one strum at a time.

“I was always stuck at home, so I learned how to play and one day I showed them and they were like super surprised,” Martin said.

A video of Martin singing was shared in early August on a Facebook group called “I am Alaska Native.” Many of the many commenters say his song is beautiful and they loved his voice.

“Been through it all” Written by: Me, Martin Paul I worked really hard on this song, because I have been through it...

Posted by Martin Paul on Sunday, July 26, 2020

“One of the main reasons I started writing songs and stuff was to try to be like a voice for the people out here,” said Martin. “‘Cause, you know, like these small villages aren’t really heard that often and a lot of people underestimate them.”

Martin went on to stay that he feels Alaska Natives from the village get a bad reputation and he hopes he can change that perception through his music.

He says that living out in the village, people don’t get the same opportunities as people in big cities like Anchorage. He says growing up he had to learn to be self-sufficient.

Aside from connectivity issues, Martin feels few people around him want to be artists.

“I got a lot of encouragement through from my village and other villages that are really encouraging me to keep going and keep writing songs,” Martin said

According to Census data, Kalskag has a population of fewer than 300 people.

Martin has since produced his first music video for a song titled “I love you.” The song is dedicated to his mother.

“I used everything I could, I was limited because of the lack of internet, but I got it done:)) I’m lucky to even get some internet way out here in the village. I get to use some maybe, twice a month or something haha. But that didn’t stop me from making this music video:)” Martin wrote in the caption for the video.

“I love you” By: Me Martin Paul🤙🏻 My first MUSIC VIDEO😅I used everything I could, I was limited because of the lack of...

Posted by Martin Paul on Thursday, August 13, 2020

Aside from making his music, Martin is also a traditional Eskimo dancer.

“I never just like started singing out of nowhere. I was a drummer, like an Eskimo dancing drummer and singer and dancer,” Martin said. “That’s where I got my singing from.”

View this post on Instagram

Eskimo dancing. Gotta love our culture❤

A post shared by Martin Paul (@eskimo_dancer23) on

Martin says he feels he will always write and make music but he has his eyes on college.

“I”m going to go to college first, ’cause a lot of kids out here don’t’ go to college,” Martin said. “I don’t know, they find it weird to go to college but I’m still going to go to college and study biology.”

When he is not playing music, Martin plays basketball, volleyball and cross-country and he hopes to get an athletic or academic scholarship.

Currently, all of Martin’s music is on his personal Facebook. He hopes in the near future he can upload his music to YouTube.

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