Woody Weingarten

Reviews, etc.

Documentary traces bigotry Indian musicians battled

Link Wray

If you’re looking for a plethora of tom-toms, forget it.

But if you’re seeking enlightenment about The Indians Who Rocked the World (which is actually the subtitle of “Rumble,” a film about Native American musicians), make sure you see the 103-minute Canadian documentary.

It’s an unexpected, entertaining winner.

Especially meaningful at a time when racial intolerance in the United States apparently has hit its highest peak since the Civil War.

The film traces bigotry toward the Indians, particularly those who shared some African-American heritage, from the Ku Klux Klan heyday into the 21st century.

Perhaps most striking is half-Mohawk Robbie Robertson, lead singer and primary songwriter for The Band, noting that his upbringing included an admonition to “be proud you’re an Indian but be careful who you tell”?

I recently caught the exciting visual history lesson at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Theater on 4th Street in San Rafael during triple-digit weather that drew a full house (which, I’m sure, included at least a handful who cared as much if not more about the air conditioning as the movie).

It’s still playing there, by the way.

“Rumble,” whose world premiere occurred at the Sundance Film Festival, includes clips of name musicians I hadn’t been aware had Indian blood — Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis and Randy Castillo, for instance.

Plus musical indigenous figures I was even less familiar with: Link Wray, Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey.

Did you know that guitarist Wray’s seminal instrumental single, “Rumble,” was banned from airplay because station bigwigs claimed it might incite teen gang violence?

I didn’t.

“Rumble” actually is chock full of other information my white-bread education somehow missed.

If I remember correctly, the only Native performer in the doc whose records I actually bought was folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

But familiar musical icons abound in it as talking heads: Taj Mahal, Tony Bennett, Steven Van Zandt, Iggy Pop, Quincy Jones, Jackson Browne, George Clinton and director Martin Scorsese, to mention only a few.

A bit of what they say, to be honest, is somewhat predictable and banal.

But it was the impact of the Indians having to hide their ethnicity while injecting traditional ethnic rhythms into their music that lingered in my brain many days after I saw the film.

Page 1 of 33512345»102030...Last »