Special/Signature Issues » Folk Used to Be a Bad Word

North Bear: Cheyenne Hip-Hop

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It's not surprising that urban hip-hop influences might reach young American Indians living in the Northern Plains. What is exciting is how the young drum group known as North Bear has subtly incorporated songwriting elements of R&B and hip-hop into traditional singing and hand drumming found within the Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Mont., the band's base.

“They're probably the group I'm most excited about at the festival,” says Joshua Kohn of the National Council for Traditional Arts, talking about the young, male 20-somethings with names such as Pascal Shoulderblade and Benji Headswift. “They're combining what you would associate with powwow singing, really intense high singing, often traditional songs to lovers — and composing new songs with a real modern edge. Short, almost haikulike phrasings, and they are just awesome.”

One thing is sure, upon listening to North Bear, it only takes a few seconds before you feel the intensity — the pounding drums and the otherworldly shrieks. You will hear their call.

Performances
Saturday: 1-1:30 p.m. on the Altria Stage.
Saturday: 3-3:30 p.m. on the MeadWestvaco family Stage.

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