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Jana heats up Onondaga Nation concert

NEDROW, N.Y. - The Tsha'Hon'nonyen'dawkhwa Arena on the territory of the Onondaga Nation just south of Syracuse is a state of the art lacrosse and hockey facility, but on July 12 it became the area's latest concert venue.

The rink hosted a slate of all-Native artists headlined by Lumbee recording artist Jana. The multi-faceted singer received the 2002 Native American Music Association Award for Song/Song Writer of the Year for her dance rendition of "Stairway to Heaven," and she dances like Jennifer Lopez with the vocal range of Whitney Houston.

Jana has not only received recognition for her signing ability, but will be acting in two upcoming movies, designs jewelry, is writing and producing her next CD, runs her own Web site and - if that were not enough - travels around the country as a motivational speaker for American Indian children.

"I think that through my music I can send out a positive message to the kids and that's what I'm going to do," Jana said.

Success did not come overnight for Jana who started out singing in a cover band before being discovered. She said she faced additional obstacles as an American Indian artist. The recording industry tried to shape her into something she was not despite her obvious talent and striking good looks.

"They wanted me to be Hispanic," said Jana who explained the music industry is largely ignorant of American Indian culture and the perception of them only appealing to a small market and in an even smaller genre of traditional music.

The veteran performers of Howard Lyons and The Good Medicine Band agreed that American Indian artists are often ignored by those who don't appreciate traditional Indian music and not taken seriously by the mainstream as being able to play anything but that traditional music or as having the ability to use non-Indian genres as a vehicle for American Indian themes.

"We have included a traditional message in our music, but we are not fanatics," said Lyons (Mohawk), also a respected songwriter and producer based in New Hampshire, who uses folk music to teach others traditional Haudenoshaunee values, including a respect for the Creator and elders.

Good Medicine's bass guitar player Darman Terrance (Akwesasne Mohawk) said over the course of his career he has noticed a tendency for American Indian musicians to not be taken seriously even by tribes who refuse to book them into tribally-owned casinos.

"This should be the ticket as Indian artists onto the national stage, but the casinos don't book Indian acts because they are concerned their patrons won't come to see Indian bands," Terrance said.

Also on the ticket were local Onondaga blues band CornBred and rock-influenced Ripchords featuring saxophone player, King Lyons, in all four acts.

CornBred nearly stole the show from Jana despite being the first opening act with a performance that would have made them the envy of any band in any blues bar in Texas. The highlight for the blues aficionados on hand had to be the powerful performance of Curtis Waterman on harmonica who played like he was born with a "harp" in his hand. CornBred, who had another booking the same night in Newark, N.Y., also expressed sincere thanks for being able to play for a hometown audience.

"It's so nice to able to able to play here in Onondaga for you in a place like this," said lead vocalist and guitar player Jerome Lazore. "They have been talking about building a place like this for 30 or 40 years."

Most of the acts at this concert have excellent Web sites where more information on the groups can be obtained and where fans can purchase their music and merchandise. Jana's site is www.jananation.com and includes information about the Lumbee Nation and their struggle for full federal recognition. CornBred's information can be found at www.starpolish.com/ cornbred and for more information on Howard Lyons and the Good Medicine Band, visit www.howardlyons.skydomerecords.com.