Native Musicians in Popular Culture at Smithsonian

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s current exhibition, Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture, displays the oft-overlooked relationship between Native artists and American contemporary music with audio samples and artifacts from big-name artists like Chuck Billy (Testament), Jimi Hendrix, Link Wray, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. This ain’t your average trip to the history museum.

The show opened on July 2 with a kick-off rock-and-blues concert by Derek Miller and will run through January 2, 2011 on the National Mall in the second-level Sealaska Gallery. Designed to share with visitors the histories of successful Native musicians, the exhibit features hand-held MP3 players with a playlist including Johnny Cash, Robbie Robertson, Rita Coolidge, and Mildred Bailey.

Also highlighted in the show are personal objects of the musicians, such as Jimi Hendrix’s multicolored full-length patchwork leather coat, Link Wray’s 1958 Danelectro Longhorn guitar, Randy Castillo’s double-platinum album, and Stevie Salas’ hooked green electric guitar.

The museum has compiled a video discussing the musicians’ stories to go along with the themes of the exhibition, “In the Spotlight,” “Encore,” and “Keeping the Beat.” These topics examine Native performers who represent the diversity in musical genre within American music, as well as the variety in achievement and recognition in mainstream music that they have received within the past half-century.

Continue your music-appreciation lesson with a live experience after your visit to the museum, with exhibit-featured artists Testament, touring through early September.

Remaining dates for Testament’s 2010 American Carnage Tour with Slayer and Megadeth:

8/25 – Denver, CO @ Magness Arena
8/26 – Albuquerque, NM @ Tingley Coliseum
8/27 – Phoenix, AZ @ Dodge Theatre
8/29 – San Diego, CA @ Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
8/30 – Long Beach, CA @ Long Beach Arena
8/31 – San Francisco, CA @ Cow Palace
9/1 – Sacramento, CA @ Arco Arena
9/3 – Seattle, WA @ Wamu Theatre
9/4 – Portland, OR @ Washington County Fairgrounds

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