“Rumble: the Indians who rocked the world” headed to Sundance

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It’s not every day your film premieres at the Sundance Film Festival, it’s even more rare that Rolling Stone magazine singles it out as one of the illustrious event’s 25 must sees. That, however, is the welcome for Rezolution Pictures’ latest production, Rumble, a documentary on the untold history of Indigenous rock and roll.

“I try to take these things in stride,” said Ernest Webb, co-founder of Rezolution Pictures and executive producer of Rumble. “It’s already a tremendous honour to premiere at Sundance. But when you do your best, with the best people you have around you, and you work with a subject that’s as great as the one we had, all that follows is the natural progression of that.”

Directed by Catherine Bainbridge, the documentary follows the progression of rock and roll as it relates to the seminal instrumental song, “Rumble,” composed by Native singer-songwriter Link Wray.

1-Link Wray 1970s

Link Wray in the 1970’s

Major acts like Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page and Dan Auerbach all cite the tune as an influence. Others talk about “Rumble” as a precursor to heavy metal. But in an era that predates the civil rights movement, it wasn’t always safe for people like Link Wray to identify themselves as Indigenous.

“The blues musician Charley Patton had to identify simply as ‘coloured’ even though he had Choctaw blood. But if you listen to his songs, as rough as the recordings were, even though he’s singing in English, you can hear Native chanting in background, and he plays his guitar like a drum,” said Webb. “This comes from the fact that Native music, drumming, was banned and people had to find a way to express themselves.”

Musicians like Patton paved the way for acts that not only admit but celebrate their heritage.

NEWPORT, RI - JULY 1967: Singer songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie performs at the Newport Folk Festival in July, 1967 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images)

Singer/songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie

“You have to remember that A Tribe Called Red is the product of generations of people building towards that point where they can say, ‘Yes, this is who we are and this is how we rock’,” Webb told the Nation. “A lot of these groups and artists hid who they were in the old days or just never mentioned it to keep themselves safe. Robbie Robertson never talked about his background until he did his solo album Music For the Native Americans.”

But with household names like Martin Scorsese, Steven Tyler, Tony Bennett, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Quincy Jones and Slash adding their voices to the conversation, we can see that the times they are a-changin’.

Ernie & Catherine_MG_4388 copy

Ernest Webb and Catherine Bainbridge of Rezolution Pictures

It wasn’t easy though. Years of research went into the project. It traces its inception to a Smithsonian exhibit called “Up Where We Belong: Native American Musicians in Popular Culture,” co-curated by Stevie Salas, a Native-American guitarist, author and TV host. Salas also served as the film’s executive producer.

Now all that’s left for the makers is the premiere and the red carpet. “Who am I going to wear?” Webb asked with a smile.

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