Sundance doc ‘Rumble’ reveals surprising roots of rock

Filmmaker highlights indigenous influence on American

Jay Meehan
The Park Record
Stevie Van Zandt appears in “RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World” by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, an official selection of the World Cinema Competition at the Sundance Film Festival.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Pedro Ruiz

So, you consider yourself culturally erudite? Connecting all the musical dots from Congo Square to the jazz and blues of Storyville and the Mississippi Delta to the refinements of Chicago and New York has long been in your musical wheelhouse, right?

And you’ve got your British Isles and Appalachian ducks simmering in a similar gumbo and you can combine them at the drop of some “roux?” Well, have I got a Sundance film for you. Are you ready to RUMBLE?

What’s going to really smack you in the face when watching this extraordinary documentary about indigenous influences in the evolution of American popular music is that, no matter how long you’ve been a part of the tribe, I’m pretty sure your quiver is an arrow or two short.

How did you miss it the first time around? Well, as it turns out, it was probably a glitch in both your auditory perception and pattern recognition centers. Not to worry. It’s nothing an epiphany couldn’t fix. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Even for those of us who haunted local Powwows, completely immersed in and hypnotized by the heartbeat of drums, rhythm of dance, and wail of songs, to not hear and recognize the same in the delta blues of the seminally influential Charlie Patton confounds the sensibilities. Obviously, we had yet to learn to listen.

Hanging their cultural war bonnets on the distorted power chords and in-your-face guitar riffs of Link Wray’s classic 1958 instrumental hit “Rumble,” filmmakers Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana, and Producer Stevie Salas (Apache) make their case both forwards and backwards from Dockery Plantation with archival film and photos, interviews, and, most especially, concert footage, which will flat-out blow you away!

While speaking to The Park Record from his beach chair on the Kona Coast of Hawaii, Salas, an advisor for Contemporary Music at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and co-creator of the exhibit “ Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians In Popular Culture,” reminisced about the four-years it took to make the film.

“It was a hard movie to make! There’s a story here that’s never been told and putting all the people together, both native and not, who wanted, and needed, to play a part in it, wasn’t easy,” Salas recalled.

Writer/Director Catherine Bainbridge, who brought her love and devotion to music, history, politics, and the importance of Indigenous stories to the film, put it this way:
“We are so honored to be able to tell this story about the influence of iconic Native American musicians like Link Wray (Shawnee), Charley Patton (Choctaw/African American), Mildred Bailey (Couer d’Alene), Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), Jimi Hendrix (Cherokee), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree), Jesse Ed Davis (Kiowa), Redbone (Yaqui/Shoshone), Randy Castillo (Isleta Pueblo/Apache) and Taboo (Shoshone).” (Tribal affiliations have been added by the writer.)

The Jesse Ed Davis and Jimi Hendrix segments are going to floor you. And when you hear Taj Mahal, Rhiannon Giddens, Slash, Stevie Van Zandt, Buddy Guy, Martin Scorsese, Tony Bennett, Jackson Browne, and Steven Tyler speak about how these icons were an influence, you’ll buy in.

And that’s not even the half of it. Native activists and poet/musicians Joy Harjo (Muscogee) and John Trudell (Santee Dakota), as usual, mesmerize while drawing their own pointed lines in the sand. And longtime music writer David Fricke, while drawing different parallels, is equally, or nearly so, illuminating.

What can I say? That a film with such an important, timely, and profound message would also be so beautifully paced and lit and shot with such extraordinary love and care, I found astounding. Plus, of course, the level of passion exhibited by filmmakers and interviewees alike. There’s a lot of love in this tribe!

And, might I add, when you walk out, you won’t be the same person that walked in!

“RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World” will screen in the Sundance Film Festival’s World Documentary program at the following times and locations:
Sunday, Jan. 22 at 9 p.m. at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre
Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the Redstone Cinema 1
Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Library Center Theatre
Friday, Jan. 27 at 11:59 p.m. at the Broadway Centre Cinema 6
Saturday, Jan. 28 at 11:30 a.m. at Holiday Village Cinema 1

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