Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, is a new documentary that celebrates the contributions Native American musicians made to popular music. The film tells the stories of artists such as Link Wray, Robbie Robertson, and even Jimi Hendrix, whose paternal grandmother was one-quarter Cherokee.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, trailer
Another artist profiled in the film, Randy Castillo, served as drummer for Ozzy Osbourne in the ’80s and ’90s. It is mentioned that Osbourne always preferred to use a Native American rhythm section because the players had a natural knack for keeping the beat.
Local musician Sarah Milan has both Choctaw and Apache blood stemming back to her great grandparents. She learned the importance of rhythm when her mother and grandmother took her to pow-wows during her youth.
“Drum beats in hip-hop reminds me of the variance in rhythm that I remember from pow-wows,” she said. “Of course there was lot of singing, and they kind of used their voice as an instrument versus guitars. There’s drum and bass, and there’s drum and vocals for pow-wows and Native Americans. The thing that is so impressive when you go to those events is the beat might not be that complicated, but five or six people are hitting the same thing at the same time and it sounds like one note.”
The pow-wows taught Milan to connect with a more spiritual part of herself through music. She found solace in playing the flute and a love of classical compositions. When she was seven, she relocated with her mother and grandmother to San Diego.
“For a really long time, I thought we were Mexican because I grew up in Imperial Valley and everyone spoke Spanish,” she explained. “All my relatives were dark. We kind of celebrated in that kind of tradition.”
Milan eventually pursued playing both guitar and piano. In the late ’90s, she played guitar in Velcro and then in First Wave Hello and Lily White as well.
“I am more of a self-taught musician,” she explained. “When I would play with the bands I was in, I would make my parts more listening to someone else’s part and intuitively hearing it in my head and adding onto that; versus ‘Oh, that’s in the key of C so I’m gonna play an E and then G and these will go together.’ It was very internal.”
Rumble plays at the Ken Cinema beginning September 1.