Link Wray, Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf Shine in Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
Link Wray, Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf, Monk Boudreaux Shine Among the Many Native American Creators of Blues, Jazz and Rock Celebrated in Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
This brightly-edited, fast-paced yet thoughtful new documentary movie is not so much about Native American music per se—although Indigenous roots musicians like Ulali, Pura Fe and Buffy Sainte-Marie make important on- screen appearances—as it is about how Native American musical geniuses—and their treasured Indigenous musical traditions— played essential roles in blues, jazz and, especially, “big-time” American rock.
The deft narrative of Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is largely about super-talented Native American musicians “hiding in plain sight”. The film tells us how prominent performing artists who were themselves proudly aware of their Indigenous ancestry often kept that heritage out of general public awareness because of long-standing prejudices and false assumptions against Indians. A stunning example is Monk Boudreaux’s revelation that the New Orleans “Mardi Gras Indians”—among whom he is revered as a Big Chief—are not just paying respectful homage to Native American tribal cultures, but, in many instances, are actually of Indigenous “Indian” descent themselves. (Boudreaux recounts his family memories of how Black folks, even as slaves, were often treated better than “Injuns”—that is, they were allowed to stay alive—in the Old South, and so his dark-skinned Indigenous family let the false impression stand that they were African American. The Neville Brothers confirm this New Orleans cultural sleight- of- hand survival tradition in their own appearances in this film.)
A stunning political note is struck by Buffy Sainte- Marie’s shocking account of how her career was damaged by overt governmental hostility to her outspoken Indian rights activism. This is underscored by the film’s effective deployment of recent footage of the Water Protectors pan-tribal resistance efforts at Standing Rock and by the eloquence of American Indian Movement activist-poet-rock musician John Trudell, whom Stevie Salas interviews at length in footage shot in New Mexico not long before Trudell’s death. This segment alone, probably the last lengthy film record of John Trudell, makes this movie invaluable. So does Pura Fe’s delightful on-screen demonstration of how Charley Patton’s percussive guitar style is undeniably based in Native American drum technique. Eye and ear opening!
Among the artists whose Indigenous roots are celebrated in this revelatory film are bluesmen Charley Patton and Howlin’ Wolf, jazz singer Mildred Bailey, iconic guitar-rockers Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix and Jesse Ed Davis, songwriter-singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson of The Band, Ozzy Osbourne’s astounding New Mexico-born drummer Randy Castillo, hip hop star Taboo and others. Among the many musical, film and literary-journalistic stars who provide comments in the film are Buddy Guy, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Bennett, Taj Mahal, Cyril and Ivan Neville, Quincy Jones, Steven Tyler, Derek Trucks, director Martin Scorsese, reporter David Fricke, poet-rocker Joy Harjo, Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins, Marky Ramone, Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, Wayne Kramer of MC5, Black Key Dan Auerbach, Slash, Charlie Sexton, Rhiannon Giddens, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood and, among others, the great George Clinton who details the Indigenous influence upon his own Parliament Funkadelic wildness. The band Redbone is given due respect for their success and well deserved affection in this remarkable film.
This independently-made Rezolution Pictures Canadian feature film, directed by Catherine Bainbridge and co-directed by Alfonso Maiorana, was introduced by executive producer Stevie Salas at this June’s Albuquerque Film & Music Experience, where it garnered one of its many festival awards. Salas, a seasoned and sought-after rock guitar-slinger and sometime American Idol musical director, proudly discussed his own Indigenous family heritage and indicated that Rumble is bound for North American theatrical release this summer.
This is a surprising, invigorating and consummately joyous movie. Spiced with great musical performances. Highly recommended!