What: Rez Life Music Fest

When: Noon to midnight Oct. 5

Where: Across the street from KFC in Shiprock

Tickets: Pre-show (noon to 4:45 p.m.) is free. The main event is $15

More info: Go to rezliferekordz.com


FARMINGTON — Rap itself is a stereotype, according to Shane Bidtah, the owner of Rez Life Rekordz. Bidtah said it falls upon the artist either to "make good music or put out trash."

Bidtah started Rez Life Rekordz in 2006 and with it the Rez Life Music Fest, which will be from noon to midnight on Oct. 5.

The show has been divided into two sections, a free pre-show from noon to 4:45 p.m. and the main show, which starts just before 6 p.m.

While Rez Life Rekordz focuses on rap, the music festival will be featuring a variety of genres. Styles range from Obsolete, a Kayenta, Ariz., based metal band will be playing at 8:10 p.m. to Indian Time, an '80s blues and R&B band that will be the pre-show headliner, playing at 1:45 p.m.

While some rap focuses on violence and self promotion, Bidtah said Rez Life Rekordz makes music about life on the reservation.

He said rap originated in the city, where many of the reservation's problems -- gangs, crime and drugs -- also exist.

"What we do is portray the reservation lifestyle -- the hard stuff -- through our music," Bidtah said.

One of Rez Life Rekordz artists, Ryan Flute, whose stage name is Flutay said he got tired hearing the rap that was being played.

"I want to make music that I want to listen to -- that I want to hear," Flute said.

Each year the music festival has grown and Bidtah promises a larger stage this year than in the past.

Last year, Sonnie and Vee Benallie were sitting in the audience with their son Gabe. This year, the three got involved in the business.

Vee Benallie said they are doing it in memory of their other son, Michael Denetsone Benallie, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2009.

"Because of that, we want to push these guys in a positive way," Vee Benallie said.

And the family believes they received a sign.

While looking through photos from the 2012 event, they saw someone in the audience who looked like Michael and was dressed in the same type of clothing Michael was wearing in a photo Gabe Benallie took before his brother's death.

"That kind of just felt like he was looking out for us that day," Vee Benallie said.

Bidtah grew up on the reservation listening to rap. In 1998, he and his brother, Chris, started making rap music. Chris now performs under the name Def-I and will be performing at 10:50 p.m. during the festival.

However, what started out as a hobby, turned into a job for Bidtah.

Rez Life Rekordz has yet to make a dime, Bidtah said. But this year, there will be a charge for the main show.

Bidtah hopes to break even after spending $7,000. Anything over that amount will be invested directly into the company, he said, and he hopes to someday have a large, multi-purpose type building for recording and performing.

Bidtah also hopes to host two more music festivals, one on Dec. 21 and another over Valentine's Day weekend.

He has spoken with the Navajo Nation Fair Board and other organizations about concerts.

Darlene Hunt, the entertainment event coordinator for the Northern Navajo Nation Fair, said she has spoken with Rez Life Rekordz about the possibility of an HIV benefit concert.

"We look forward to working with them," Hunt said.

Opening a business on the reservation always presents some challenges.

"It's really easy if one has resources," Gabe Benallie said.

However, businesses have to pay for application fees and there is very little money to go around to help out new businesses.

"As Navajos, we really have the authority to do what we want to do," Gabe Benallie said, referring to Navajo Nation's sovereign status.

He said he sometimes feels that the "people holding the keys" are keeping the doors shut and the economy stagnant.

But spending money without making any has created problems for the crew at Rez Life Rekordz.

"There's times that I wonder how I'm going to feed my family," Bidtah said.

The Benallies live in a section of Shiprock nicknamed the "War Zone."

Gabe Benallie said there are no speed limit signs, so people speed through the area. And few buildings have utility service. The Benallies have to haul in water from wherever they can find it.

"Even the churches are getting stingy with water," Gabe Benallie said.

Rez Life Rekordz reached out to more than 75 businesses for support this year. Some donated money while others let them hang their fliers in the shops.

Off the Chain donated $20,000. Other businesses like It Works Body Wraps, CitiMarket in Shiprock, Animas Valley Mall and Creative Native Gear and Graphics in Gallup also have donated.

Bidtah plans on giving Obee's Tire Shop, another donor, the materials they used to make the stage after the event is over.

Rez Life Rekordz's success is measured in the attention it has received. Bidtah said he is now performing on stage with some of the rappers he grew up listening to, like Do or Die, Afroman, and Mr. Capone-E.

While in Los Angeles, they were given an opportunity to perform with Mr. Capone-E, who invited them to a car show.

Bidtah later invited Mr. Capone-E to be one of the three headliners in the main part of the music festival.

The other two headliners are Cuete Yeska and Carolyn Rodriguez.

"They see something in the reservation too," Bidtah said.

However, not everyone is as optimistic. Bidtah said he has had people approach him wondering why he doesn't leave the reservation in order to get more attention.

"Our plan is to stay on the reservation and bring the attention here," Bidtah said.

Bidtah sees the future of his industry when he looks at the younger generations. His daughter has just started to create music.

"We have to create something for them," Bidtah said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.