• A young and wild Stevie Salas toured with Rod Stewart, as his lead guitarist in 1990. (Stevie Salas)Source: Stevie Salas
It's the acclaimed documentary that uncovers the huge influence of Native American artists had in popular music, and it's on TV this weekend.
Emily Nicol

16 May 2018 - 11:27 AM  UPDATED 16 May 2018 - 11:49 AM

A great documentary will always show you something unexpected. Take you beneath the known surface of the subject.

In Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, we are taken on a historical journey as we hear from some of the biggest names in music and how they were influenced and inspired by the sounds of little known Native American musicians.

For some of these musicians, revealing their Indigenous cultural heritage was not an option at the time, for fear of racism or discrimination. If they did openly identify as Native American, they often flew under the radar and were known only within the world of musicians who they worked with. Even today, it's still a little known fact that rock great Jimi Hendrix was Cherokee, or that legendary guitarist Jesse Ed Davis who was admired by The Beatles and Rolling Stones, was a Comanche/Kiowa man. Rumble reveals all of these fascinating stories and much more.

Executive producer of Rumble and one of the world's top guitarists, Apache man Stevie Salas, sits down with people like Martin Scorsese, Tony Bennett, Slash and Steven Tyler as they share stories and reminisce about artists such as Jesse Ed and Link Wray who were fundamental in the blues, rock'n'roll and jazz movements.

Salas notes that it was important for the documentary to be a positive celebration and exploration of Native American influence and achievement within popular music, rather than a negative story about artists who have been overlooked in the great stories of modern music.

"I've had enough of telling the world how we were screwed over —I want to be positive!"

Salas said that himself and fellow Native American musicians were tired of the popular narrative that was being repeated in popular media, "I'd be talking to fellow musicians and they would all be saying the same thing, 'I've had enough of telling the world how we were screwed over —I want to be positive!' And that's how it is in the film, you walk out of there feeling good."

Combining interviews, live performance and archival footage, audiences are given an engaging insight into how artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson carried their Indigeneity throughout their music careers, and how their talent affected their peers. 

This film makes changes what you thought you knew about rock and popular music. Images of Hendrix wearing turquoise jewellery and fringed jackets which were handed down from his Grandmother show a clear connection between him and his Cherokee culture. We learn how Native American storytelling influenced the sound and approach to different genres of music. We discover the great story of Link Wray, admired by the giants of rock'n'roll, whose instrumental track ‘Rumble’ is the only song without lyrics to be banned for fear that it would incite teenage violence and rebellion.

Beautifully directed by filmmaker Catherine Bainbridge and cinematographer Alfonso Maiorana, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World is the missing chapter and an essential piece of music history.


Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World will have its Australian television premiere on Sunday, 20 May 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34), and will be available On Demand. Join the conversation #RumbleTheIndiansWhoRockedTheWorld.