28 June 2017 | Red-Barracuda
Interesting look at the influence of Native Americans on popular music culture
This film focuses on the overlooked contributions of Native Americans on popular music. It covers the music from early blues through to hair metal. One of the findings is that being Native American was something that musicians generally hid from the public eye, publicity of this ethnicity seemed to be something that effected the chance of the music being promoted in the mainstream. There appeared to be a sense of discomfort in the American media, mixed in with a sense of collective guilt about the treatment of the Native Americans historically. The film details some of the racism that was directed their way, especially in the earlier part of the 20th century and the way that their culture was in fact suppressed to an extent. This extended to their music, which was considered to be subversive.
Catherine Bainbridge has put together a film on a subject of which there really has been little focus on. It is at its most interesting and incisive when detailing the earlier stuff. For example, the early blues recordings of Charley Patton really do have a Native American sound to them with the vocal delivery and distinctive rhythms, a fact I had never noticed beforehand. And considering he was one of the key players in the early days of what was to become popular music, you have to say that the influence of his culture on modern music has to be significant. Other key players are Link Wray who developed a style of guitar music which would be a major influence on all subsequent music which used power chords, we learn of the difficulties the folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie experienced with radio stations being pressurised into not playing her songs which were considered dangerously political and then there is Jimi Hendrix whose Native American ancestry was less promoted to the public than his black ethnicity. Later on, there is a look at the much-respected guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, Robbie Robertson of The Band, the Native American group Redbone, heavy metallers Randy Castillo and Steve Salas and hip-hop rapper Taboo. Some of the latter stuff, while still interesting, feels a little fragmented, with the actual Native American influence somewhat hard to detect at times. But overall, this certainly is a very good music documentary with much to ponder and a focus on some musicians who have not had much attention over the years. It definitely shows that the Native American influence is something that has never gotten the recognition it deserves; this film tries to readdress this a little.