While firmly rooted in Plains tradition, the music of North Bear also represents an exciting new direction in American Indian tradition.
- Northern Plains drum
- Lame Deer, Montana
Listen[audio:http://rvanews.net/folk_festival/2009/artists/HahaWey.mp3|artists=North Bear|titles=Haha Wey from Live at Lame Deer]
From The Brothers Burton
Scott says: After hearing their song “Mad Skillz,” which combines Native American powwow drumming with epic chanting, I can only say that these guys rule!
Taylor says: I am probably more pumped about seeing North Bear than any other group I have ever seen. Native American drumming and singing might be my favorite thing on Earth, and these guys are some of the best at delivering it. Super powerful leads and colossal beats.
In American Indian pow-wows around the country, in both ceremonial and competitive settings, the intense, repetitive heartbeat of the drum and soaring falsetto singing are essential accompaniments to the agile movements of dancers. One of the newest and strongest of the Northern Plains drum groups is the youthful North Bear from the Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana. While firmly rooted in Plains tradition, the music of North Bear also represents an exciting new direction in American Indian tradition. The group’s repertoire includes newly composed songs influenced by modern R&B and hip-hop styles that contribute a surprising element to its powerful and exciting live performances.
Founded in 2003, North Bear has become recognized as one of the foremost exponents of the Northern Plains “straight” or “traditional” style of singing within the Cheyenne community. Employing powerful falsetto voices, and non-word musical syllables called “vocables,” the drum group increases the volume, tempo and intensity of its singing as it drives the progression of the dance. Since its formation, North Bear has traveled around the U.S. performing and competing in national pow-wows from Oklahoma to the Pacific Northwest, taking numerous prizes.
North Bear’s musical innovations are solidly grounded in tradition. The group is at the center of a resurgence of interest in the hand drum within the American Indian community. Hand drum competitions, in which the drums accompany love songs or topical songs with improvised and composed lyrics, akin to rap in the hip hop world, are a new feature of American Indian social gatherings. North Bear’s passionate, clever songs, both performed solo and as a group, have propelled them to the forefront of this musical movement in Native American song.
(Photo by Dick Kettlewell, The Rapid City Journal)