Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
R1 - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (25th December 2017).
The Film

The film begins with the distinct signature sound of a snarling guitar; it is April 1958 and that sound has never been heard before over U.S. airwaves. It is none other than legendary Rockabilly guitarist, Link Wray and his band, the Ray Men, and this is the sound that was banned from several U.S. radio markets because authorities feared that the mere sound of Wray’s guitar would set off a wave of gang violence. Film goers immediately will recognize the song because it has been used repeatedly in films, cartoons, documentaries, and has been featured on countless soundtrack albums. Utilizing feedback techniques and distortion, this is the sound that opened the door for multiple guitarists and introduced the use of the power chord to modern rock music. Everyone from Iggy Pop to Jimmy Page immediately took notice of this new sound and ran with it; the creator of that sound was Fred Lincoln Wray and he was part Shawnee Indian, originally from Dunn, North Carolina. Using the innovative sound of Link Wray to introduce the topic of indigenous people and the roles that they played in the creation of modern Rock and Roll was a brilliant move. Marty Scorsese reflects upon the power of that sound with this statement: "It is the sound of that guitar... the aggression."

“The ingredients that make up the stew that is modern music is akin to gumbo”, so says Aaron Neville of The Neville Brothers; “essentially you take everything that you have and throw it into the pot.” The truth of the situation is that Native Americans are essentially the first musicians in American history and that the rhythms and sound of Rock and Roll can basically be traced back to the early recordings of the braves as they sang and danced on the plains and in the woods. There is a who’s who of talent on display in this film with footage of historical geniuses like Charley Patton to Jimi Hendrix, both whom shared a Native American heritage, as the film traces the early developments of iconic musicians like Robbie Robertson of The Band fame. Who knew that this music owed such a debt of thanks to these varied kinspeople like Mildred Bailey, a famous jazz vocalist from the 1930’s known as “The Queen of Swing.” Yes, she was part Native American from the Coeur d'Alene tribe and such legends as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett openly acknowledge her influence on their singing styles.

One of the revelations of this film is the fact that certain types of Native American music was actually outlawed until the mid-1960’s. The Filmmakers also commented that a high number of black musicians were in reality Native Americans and that they simply passed themselves off as being either Black or occasionally Mexican, depending upon where they were located at the time. Indian guitarists such as Robbie Robertson of The Band and Jesse Ed David are focused on and Robertson comments that growing up he had heard his parents tell him “Be proud you’re an Indian but be careful who you tell.” Apparently it is still dangerous to reveal your roots even though you may be a talented star.

Ten different musical acts are focused on in the film and along the way we are introduced to a plethora of stars that testify regarding the “Indian” influence of music ranging from the blues to heavy metal bands such as Ozzy Osbourne. We are introduced to the late Randy Castillo, of Isleta Pueblo and Apache origins, and who played drums for Ozzy Osbourne and Mötley Crüe among other metal acts. The film is a fascinating and revealing insight into one of the great secrets of modern time, and it is extremely shameful that talented artists had to pretend to be other than what they actually were.

"Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World" was inspired by the Smithsonian Institution exhibit “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians In Popular Culture,” created by Tim Johnson and Stevie Salas for the National Museum of the American Indian.

Video

Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the video is very clear and throughout the film there are historic clips and some animated sequences as well. DVD playback is adequate and gets the job done without marring any of the source material.

Audio

The soundtrack is presented in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The audio is of course the most important feature of the film and the sound is excellent whether shifting from the more finely nuanced early blues or the explosive drum solos of Randy Castillo. There are no optional subtitles.

Extras

No extras to speak of other than the film's theatrical trailer (2:32). What the heck, man? No extras, no additional footage, no interviews? Very poor! Go out and buy yourself some Link Wray music and get your rumble on!

Packaging

Packaged in a standard DVD keep case.

Overall

This film packs plenty of information into its running time and many paths are explored. It's a great place to start for those that are interested in ethnomusicology and its evolution of how it sounds the way that it currently does.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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