Life of a Pow Wow Singer

Life of a Pow Wow Singer


This upcoming Summer, many pow wow singers will be hitting the road. Our friend Charlie Ballard recently sat down with Manuel Lieras to get an inside peek at life on the pow wow trail with one of the many singers everyone will be seeing this 2014 season.

CB: Please introduce yourself – name, tribe, where you from, schooling/education, age, horoscope sign, dating status, family members.
ML: Manuel “Manny” Lieras. I'm Diné and Comanche, born and raised in San Diego, CA. I have a BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences from San Diego State University, turning 36 on May 29th, Gemini, Indian, married. I have a daughter named Joni who is 16 months and expecting a second child with my wife Yvonne Marshall in December.

CB: How long have you been a singer?
ML: I've been singing since I was 18, started out with the group at San Diego State University NASA.

CB: How'd you get into singing? Whats your favorite songs to sing, whats your style, ambitions for being a singer? Whose your favorite drum group?
ML: I was hanging out at a 7-Eleven by campus and was approached by my friend and fellow singer Steve Gomez who asked me to join them for a drum practice. I love singing all types of songs but if I had to choose a favorite I'd say gourd songs are my favorite. I sing northern style but when I first started singing, I sang southern style. Favorite drum group is All Nations from Oakland followed closely by Northern Cree.

manny2CB: Whats the farthest you've traveled for a pow wow? Where'd you go? Whose dance was it? What'd you think of it? Impressions?
ML: I drove from Oakland to Pine Ridge for the Oglala Nation Fair in 2004 and it was awesome. The committee and people were very welcoming. I was able to sing with two groups that weekend because it wasn't a contest. The pow wow was awesome. First strictly northern pow wow I had ever been to.

CB: Who are you currently drumming with?
ML: I'm currently free lancing because I recently relocated.

CB: Why are pow wows so important to you?
ML: Because they were the catalyst which encouraged my own tribal traditions and helped me to understand my voice's purpose.

CB: Do you think being a pow wow singer makes it easy for you to find a snag? Have you tried woo'ing any ladies with your powwow songs or tried composing any of your own songs yet?
ML: Yes , yes and yes.

CB: Which pow wows do you plan on hitting up this Summer?
ML: Fort Hall Festival, Fort Washakie Festival and maybe Pechanga.



CB: How do you balance attending pow wows with your family/work life?
ML: Since the addition of our daughter pow wows have been a lot more work but we make the time and put forth the energy to have our daughter participate in the arena.

CB: What life lessons have you learned from pow wows.
ML: Laughter is medicine. Around the drum I've met some of the funniest characters.

CB: How did you find passion in being a singer?
ML: It found me. But seriously, I think the first time I ever sang an honor or memorial song is when the passion settled in. To be able to use my voice as an instrument of change, love, honor is what still guides me to sing.

CB: What are the advantage/disadvantages to being a pow wow singer starting out?
ML: Advantages: no one knows you yet so you have some freedom.
Disadvantages: no one knows you yet so it's a challenge to establish yourself to get singing credibility.

Thanks for the interview Manny! You can follow him on Facebook at Manny Lieras to see where he'll be singing next.

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

One Comment “Life of a Pow Wow Singer”

  • Avatar for renee venetucci

    renee venetucci


    Awesome.. I have Chippewa blood in me and I am just starting to really learn my heritage. It only took me to be 43..LOL But I am proud. Keep doing what your doing..

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