The 33rd Athabascan Fiddle Festival was held at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall in Fairbanks, AK Nov. 11-14, 2015. When the festival began thirty-three years ago it was a mix of Athabascan musicians from across Interior Alaska, contributing different styles of fiddle music from their respective villages.In the 1840s the trappers who worked for Hudson Bay brought Scottish Isle jigs and reels to rural Alaskan villages up the Yukon River. Meanwhile the miners to the west influenced Alaska Natives in those villages with the country-and-western music they brought with them.While the festival started off as a mix of the two traditions, it has now taken a new shape. As more and more musicians traveled to Fairbanks every Veterans Day to play the festival, the less time there was for each band to play, leading to a split in the festival. Now the Gwich’in Old Time Athabascan Fiddle Dance is held during the same dates at the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center up the road. The upriver Gwich’in’s prefer to have their square dances and jig contests in a less time constrained schedule. In turn the Athabascan Fiddle Fest has become more rock and roll and hosts non-Athabascan bands as well as Canadian musicians. While each band is still required to have a fiddle player, those rules may have to bend since fewer younger people are picking the fiddle as their instrument of choice. Nowadays the younger generation prefers the guitar and rock and roll so the festival has evolved.Berchmen Esmailka 89, of Nulato says he was just a young boy when he started playing the fiddle. He listened to the older musicians in his village play Hank Williams and other country western music, as well as the Scottish Isle music. Esmailka, a traditionalist, is disheartened at the change in the festival, and isn’t interested the newer music. “I used to play guitar, but since there started to be rock and roll, I cut it off,” says Esmailka. He laments the loss of so many of the older fiddle players, “They’re all gone now and I’m left alone.” Other musicians at embrace the evolution of festival. Louis Demoski 71, of Galena says, “We’ve got to change our music, a lot of the old time musicians are gone, and rock and roll and country rock, it’s going to be the next generation.”Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.