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Native roots: Film explores American Indian influences on music

It’s been a crazy year for Stevie Salas.

Yet with decades in the music industry, the musician is used to the chaos.

Salas has played guitar on more than 70 albums and worked with musicians such as George Clinton, Justin Timberlake, Buddy Miles, T.I., Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart.

Stevie Salas is the executive producer of “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World.”

Salas is a guitarist, recording engineer and a composer and arranger.

He also scored the films “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Darfur.”

Oh, let’s not forget to mention that he served as music director for “American Idol” from 2006 to 2010.

But with his latest project, “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” Salas was catapulted into new territory.

The documentary chronicles the role of Native Americans in music history and features some of the greatest music stars.

The film also reveals how indigenous musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives and influenced popular culture.

The film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January. At the festival, it was awarded the “world cinema documentary special jury award for masterful storytelling.”

The documentary features a wide array of Native music icons, including Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Randy Castillo and others.

Salas says doing the research for the film helped him gain a new perspective.

“I didn’t realize how many of these artists are Native American,” he says. “That was the biggest thrill in getting this completed.”

“Rumble” is the opening night film at the Albuquerque Film and Music Experience.

Salas says the project began in 1988, when he was performing with Rod Stewart.

“I started looking around, and there weren’t a lot of guys who looked like me,” he says. “I started to realize as I was on the road more, that there were, in fact, guys who looked like me. After tours, I would spend some time in New Mexico and Indian Country to get grounded.”

Salas’ New Mexico roots run deep, though he was born in Oceanside, Calif.

His parents also have roots in the Land of Enchantment. His mother was born in New Mexico, though his father was born in Wyoming.

“My mother’s family is still in New Mexico,” he says. “My father was born in Wyoming, though.”

While on tour, Salas says he went through an identity crisis trying to figure out his heritage.

“My birth certificate says I’m white,” he says. “Finding out where I came from and my roots has been a journey as well. What ‘Rumble’ does is bring the Native American musicians to the forefront. These musicians were often overlooked or not credited as being Native American.”

Salas says the greatest outcome from the film is that it is resonating with audiences.

“It’s turning out way better than I could have ever imagined,” he says. “It’s going to achieve a lot of things for Native American history.”

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