Music documentary

Award-winning musical documentary ‘Rumble’ is a labor of love for San Diego’s Stevie Salas

Stevie Salas was just 23 when he became Rod Stewart’s lead guitarist in 1988, followed by collaborations with Mick Jagger, Public Enemy, INXS’ Michael Hutchence, Was (Not Was), Justin Timberlake, The Great Drummer jazz Ronald Shannon Jackson and more. He’s also released several solo albums, has his own line of signature Framus Guitars models, and spent four years as musical director and consultant for “American Idol.”

But it wasn’t until he conceived and produced the award-winning new documentary film, ‘Rumble: The Indians Who Shook the World,’ that this Oceanside native finally felt like he had made a lasting achievement of artistic value.

“I was possessed by this movie for selfish reasons,” said Salas, 52. “I wanted to tell myself that I had done something else in my life than jumping on stage with an electric guitar. I wanted to do something bigger. »

With “Rumble” – which is already generating Oscar buzz and winning the 2017 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize for its “masterful storytelling” – he achieved his goal with flying colors.

The 102-minute film grew out of Salas’ work as co-curator of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s acclaimed “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture” exhibit. It opens a week-long run Friday at Landmark’s Ken Cinema. Salas will be present for the 7:05 p.m. screening on Tuesday.

A deeply moving and historically significant documentary, “Rumble” lovingly chronicles the vital contributions to popular music made by the Indigenous peoples of North America.

Directed by Canadian filmmakers Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, the 10 main subjects of “Rumble” include: guitarists Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix and Jesse Ed Davis and Robbie Robertson; Charley Patton, pioneer of the delta blues; vocal jazz giant Mildred Bailey; singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie; the Redbone group; heavy metal drummer Randy Castillo; and Black Eyed Peas singer Jimmy “Taboo” Gomez.

All of them are partially or entirely of Native American descent, which may come as a surprise to many viewers. Their artistic contributions are acclaimed by an array of leading musicians and cultural figures.

The first 10 minutes of “Rumble” alone includes filmed interviews with Robertson, George Clinton, Little Steven, Martin Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, former Ramones drummer Marky Ramone, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and more, including – briefly – Salas himself.

The following segments feature everyone from Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones and blues guitar great Buddy Guy to Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler, Rhiannon Giddens and guitar icon Hendrix’s sister, Janie.

“I was adamant that I doesn’t I want to make a movie full of musicologists telling people that maybe the story they grew up with was wrong,” said Salas, who is Apache.

“I wanted Eric Clapton, Slash and Jackson Browne to say to you, ‘This guy was a huge influence on me.’ We’re telling a story that had never been told, and it had to be done right. I needed famous musicians to make it believable.

Clapton and The Who’s Pete Townshend are among the few Salas artists could not nail to appear in “Rumble”, but not for lack of effort. He and Clapton corresponded for several years, but their schedules never quite matched. Ditto, Townshend and Bob Dylan, whose 2001 song, “High Water (for Charley Patton”) pays homage to the blues giant chronicled in “Rumble”.

“Dylan has a huge knowledge of Patton, and Dylan’s guitarist Charlie Sexton was my neighbor in Austin,” Salas said, speaking by phone at a recent music festival in Tokyo.

“So I chased Dylan everywhere, including to Humphreys in San Diego when he played there last year. I was hanging out backstage with one of the ‘Rumble’ co-producers, Christina Fon. She’s pretty and, like Bob, Jewish. So I was hoping he would want to talk to her, and then we could talk about how important it was to get him in the movie. I tried everything, but I couldn’t to see her.

Even without Dylan and Clapton, “Rumble” is a riveting film that’s both informative and entertaining. Four years in the making, it looks richer than its million dollar budget, which was funded by PBS, HBO Canada, Arcade France and Arcade Germany.

“Documentary filmmaking is not a sexy business,” Salas said. “I didn’t do this to make money; I did it for my Indian heritage and to do something important.

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