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Review: Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

July 28, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Named for Link Wray’s highly influential guitar piece “Rumble,” the only instrumental song to be banned for radio play in the United States for fear that the driving chord progressions and percussion might start a riot, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World offers an extensive history of Native American contributions to music.

But this sterling documentary, which took home the Audience Award at Hot Docs a few months back, is much more than just a history lesson.  It provides an entertaining and informative trip through nearly a century of great music, and the tumultuous political backdrop that it provided the soundtrack for.

Touching on every genre from blues, folk, rock, heavy metal and pop, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World highlights some of the many musicians with Indigenous heritage who have left an indelible mark on music and the culture as a whole.  The film explores how musicians like the influential 1920s blues guitarist Charley Patton initially tried to hide their native roots for fear that it would hinder their music from being played, before artists like Jimi Hendrix, Robbie Robertson and Buffy Saint Marie, and more recently Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, started to embrace their culture and raise awareness through music.

The film offers an exciting mix of interviews, archival performance footage and concert scenes, weaving together the closely connected lines between musical, political and cultural history.  And in one of the film’s best sequences, footage of Redbone performing “Come and Get Your Love” in traditional Native dress on Midnight Special is matched with the opening credits of Guardians of the Galaxy where Star-Lord struts his stuff to the song, powerfully showing the progress we have made in terms of these artists getting recognition for their work.

Directed by Catherine Bainbridge, following her exploration of how aboriginal people have been depicted on film in the excellent 2009 documentary Reel InjunRumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is a compelling and emotionally resonant film.  It uses music as a way to explore the history of Indigenous culture as a whole, and how it has all too often been suppressed, with many now taking the steps to reclaim the work as their own.  And the soundtrack is incredible.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is now playing in limited release at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

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