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Grab a pair of headphones as you enter “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture,”—and you’ll be treated to a musical survey spanning several decades and genres. The exhibit celebrates artists like Shawnee guitarist Link Wray, who in the song “Rumble” introduced the power chord; and Canadian Cree folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, who spoke out against war and the mistreatment of Native Americans in the ’60s with tunes like “Universal Soldier” and “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone.” The exhibit also devotes space to the tensions of assimilation and cultural preservation, notably in its documentation of the career of Mildred Bailey. In the 1930s she was one of the first non-black females to perform swing and jazz and hosted her own radio show, but she couldn’t openly proclaim her Coeur d’Alene heritage. Times have changed in the last 70-some years, but few contemporary Native American artists can extract guitar crunch like Wray could. Nor can many other artists.
THE EXHIBIT IS ON VIEW 10 A.M. TO 5:30 P.M. DAILY TO JAN. 2, AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN, 4TH ST. SW AND INDEPENDENCE AVE. (202) 633-1000.