It’s always a humbling moment when you realize that something you love is influenced by an even greater and more awesome source you didn’t know existed. Hopefully this ignorance only lasts a brief period before something comes along to set you straight. America’s great melting pot of cultures ensures that its music can never be created in a vacuum; that across time different sounds have come together to create wholly new ideas of what music can do and be. The Native American influence in Rock music is not given much attention, but Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World seeks to change that attitude.
This new documentary from filmmakers Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana takes the viewer on a journey, tracing the long and varied history of Native Americans who, through a love of their culture, changed the musical landscape in America. From Mississippi and Louisiana to New Mexico and the Pacific Coast, music from the likes of Link Wray, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jimi Hendrix, Mildred Bailey, Randy Castillo, and Redbone, flood every frame, assigning a face and a name to some of the most recognizable beats in history. The song ‘Rumble’ by Link Wray lends its name to this film and is noted as quite possibly the most influential piece of music in terms of its range. Its pulsating rhythm simultaneously stretching from the ancient beat of a single drum to the elaborate stadiums of the present day.
The film’s real strength is presenting such a strong focus and through line from the beginnings of Native American music, with it’s strong ties to plantation and black American music, to it’s influences on white musicians who came into contact with these technical masters.Through the use of archival footage, stories, and talking head interviews with music and film icons like Martin Scorsese and Quincy Jones, and music writers like David Fricke its easy to see how much of this cultural history resides in our favorite tunes without us being aware. Everything in Rumble comes together to paint a chronological story of this little known history that continues to evolve.
I don’t want to say much more since watching the film is a joyful enough experience and guaranteed to introduce you to musicians you’ll want to know better. Suffice it to say, especially in this volatile climate, that America is best when it’s varied parts come together to create a whole so nuanced and intricate in it’s layers continue to show us new things about our culture each time we dare to listen.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World opens today on Philly area theaters.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.