Remixing tradition: Neon Nativez brings a new sound to old songs

Apr. 27—Neon Nativez deconstructs old songs to create something new.

The DJ and electronic dance music producer performed at Gathering of Nations, where he played his EDM remixes of old Native jams from rock bands like Redbone and XIT.

Krieg Benally, the man behind the Neon Nativez alias, is Apache and grew up in southeastern Utah.

"I've always had a love for EDM just because of how similar it is to powwow music," Benally said. "You know, simple four-on-the-floor type powwow drumbeat and typical dance house beat. They go basically hand in hand together and they share the same beat, just at different tempos."

Benally's first love was hip-hop. He was a breakdancer, then a rapper and finally a hip-hop producer. But EDM appealed to him because of the genre's commonalities with powwow music.

"In EDM, there's a call and response," Benally said. "Say, for example, there's a drop in an EDM or dubstep song, there'll be a call, and then there'll be a response. ... In powwow music or other traditional music from different groups of Indigenous people, there'll be a same similar call and response."

As for DJing at Gathering of Nations, he said it's a fun gig.

"It allows me to have a space to share my music with my people," Benally said. "I play a bunch of old songs, songs that they know, songs that they grew up with, because I grew up with them."

Neon Nativez released his album REZILIENCE in 2022 and is working on an upcoming album, Reclamation.