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Artists exploring new rhythm
Northern Cheyenne artist Bently Spang and Navajo artist Bert Benally combined old styles of Indian music and dance with today's rap, hip hop, and rave cultures to create the Tekcno Pow wow for the Techno-Indian of the future.

After mixing ancient American Indian music and dances with rap, hip-hop and rave culture, two Indian artists have brought a new kind of tribal rhythm and style into the 21st Century.

Known as the Tekcno Pow wow artists, Bently Spang, a Northern Cheyenne, and Bert Benally, a Navajo, have spent much of their lives searching for ways to attack the stereotypical views of Indian people as being stoic, unemotional, or one dimensional.

"We want to show that the Indian of the future is cool and sexy," he said

Tekcno Pow wow is a form of artwork that incorporates techno/rave-style performances that features dancers, techno music, music-sensitive robotic elements, and an interactive large-scale projected video.

By combining dance, music, video, and culture, the two artists have created a new form of expression for all youths to come together in an intense atmosphere of mixed rhythms, lights and entertainment.

On April 17, the two artists are planning to host a Tekcno Pow wow at the Montana Artists Refuge in Basin from 8 p.m. to midnight.

The event is a scaled-down version of a "mini-rave" for area youth.

Helena's local community drum group, the Magpie Singers, will be drumming and singing throughout the evening.

Spang has created a character known as the Blue Guy, an exaggerated character depicting a techno-Indian.

With obvious differences and not so obvious similarities, native and techno/rave cultures have sampled from other cultures to support their own core identity.

The Tekcno Pow wow was designed to showcase the similarities of the cultures by using dance, interactive/robotic technologies and music.

Spang and Benally are in-residence at the Montana Artists Refuge in Basin during the month of April. Spang's recent public commissions include Indian 101-Duct Tape and Bailing Wire for Survival; The Identity Project: Garden of Cultural Delights, and Hoxovestave (Journey Across Country).

Benally is an installation artist/techno DJ from New Mexico. He also is secretary/treasurer of the Shiprock Boys and Girls Club.

He runs his own music program in Shiprock called Golizhi, which in Navajo means skunk.

"I named it like that because of the Navajo story of a skunk that overtook the coyote" he said.

The two artists met in 1993 while attending the University of Wisconsin, where they started to learn about the similarities between the beat of a traditional Indian drum and rap, hip-hop and rave music.

"All of it pulls people out on the floor," said Spang. "I can't stand to just watch."

Benally said the music and dancing brings rich, poor, rappers, hip-hop artists, and punks together.

The pair started to develop the idea of creating a Tekcno Pow wow in 1994.

"We decided to experiment with techno and native beats together," said Benally.

Northern Cheyenne break-dance artist, Marcus Lopez will kick off what's known as B-Boy Battles.

In this unique competition, 16-year-old Lopez will challenge traditional Indian dancers and others in a high- powered dance competition.

Lopez has been a competitor in various dance competitions throughout the United States.

Funding for this event has been provided by the Allen Foundation for the Arts. The foundation supports projects and organizations that advance the visual, performing, and literary arts.

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