Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, May 08

Sir Harrison Begay looks forward to playing live music as restrictions lift

Sir Harrison Begay is eager to return to playing live. (Photo/Blushing Cactus)

Sir Harrison Begay is eager to return to playing live. (Photo/Blushing Cactus)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Navajo guitarist Sir Harrison Begay, like other musicians throughout the state, is happy that live music is returning to bars and other entertainment venues so he can get back to work.

Begay, a Prescott resident, said he looks forward to more gigs at the Windsock, Bird Cage and Jersey Lilly in Prescott, but the Roadhouse in Bellemont has also asked him what dates he’s available. He is scheduled to return to the Weahtherford in Flagstaff on May 10 as they bring back their Monday night blues.

As a full time musician, Begay was concerned when music at bars was shut down during the pandemic. He kept going economically by working at a friend’s ranch in Chino Valley.

Begay said the importance of music to communities cannot be overstated.

“I think it’s huge,” he said. “When we’ve been able to do shows the turnouts have been pushing up against whatever limits were in place. People are clamoring for music. I expect great turnouts when it fully returns.”

Begay said the reality is that musicians felt even more isolated. He said during the pandemic some of his friends were happy to just come over to play and some of the clubs were open, but couldn’t be packed.

“Some people were afraid to come out,” he said. “Prescott never shut down, but there were a lot of restrictions. A lot of times there were solos, but no dancing. Flagstaff was shut down.”

Begay said the economic impact on him was huge and depressing — last year was supposed to be his biggest year because of festivals that were planned that all were cancelled.

He ended up playing some online gigs. He was not able to get either federal or state COVID-19 funds like some musicians did.

Begay said many musicians, even newer musicians, were thankful to listen to any music because music shutdown in so many places, including California.

“We had to proceed with caution,” he said. “But the outlook is bright as everybody is setting tour dates again.”

Begay said the places he played during the pandemic had all the safety protocols in place. He said people were frustrated by the restrictions especially the prohibition from dancing.

“But they had to be cautious because they were all being watched,” he said.

Begay said people were happy during the pandemic whenever he would post music.

“Everybody was playing it safe,” he said. “It’s been a year now and a lot have come out in the last two weeks. People are glad to see us coming out. Some thanked me for being willing to get out there to perform. Once this clears up, we’ll be going strong.”

Begay said the bar owners and workers were frustrated by the pandemic because they could not do what they had done previously. He said when the rules were recently lifted, they were grateful.

“The community has always been strong for musicians,” he said. “My musician in friends in Flagstaff were not happy because there was nothing going on. Some had not played for over a year. Some of the musicians played it safe.”

Begay said he is grateful and thankful for his musician friends who he stayed in touch with and who stayed in touch with him and checked on each other during the pandemic.

“It was scary. We lost a few musicians to COVID-19,” he said.

Begay had COVID-19 in June.

“It was like a flu. Nothing serious,” he said.

Begay said music helped people stay alive during the pandemic.

“It kept us going,” he said.

Begay said when he played during the pandemic that he was able to get to know fans better.

“We would meet briefly and I did more of Facebook live,” he said. “We stuck it out and we’re still here. A lot of musicians stayed home and practiced so they got better. It blew me away when I heard them because they were so much better.”

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