Native Music Exhibition Opens with Free Summer Concerts

July 6, 2012
News Release

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Learn about the Native artists who have helped shape contemporary music for the past century in “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture,” opening Aug. 4 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. With music, instruments and awards from artists Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree), Mildred Bailey (Coeur d’Alene), Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), Rita Coolidge (Cherokee) and Link Wray (Shawnee), the exhibition describes the contribution of Native artists to jazz, rock and blues. The exhibition, an expanded and revised version of the original that premiered in Washington, D.C., will close Aug. 11, 2013.

To celebrate “Up,” the museum will host two free concerts on the outdoor cobblestones at Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan. Guitarist Stevie Salas (Apache) will host the opening-night concert featuring Julia Keefe (Nez Perce), Bill Miller (Mohican) and Martha Redbone (Choctaw/Cherokee heritage) Thursday, Aug. 2, at 4 p.m. The Inuit and Yup’ik world music group Pamyua will play Thursday, Aug. 9, at 5 p.m. All concerts are free. For details, visit

“Up Where We Belong” opens with jazz musicians Mildred Bailey (Coeur d’Alene), sideman Russell “Big Chief” Moore (Tohono O’odham), Oscar Pettiford (Cherokee/Choctaw/African American) and Illinois Jacquet (Lakota) then continues to rock and folk musicians Peter La Farge (Narragansett), Ritchie Valens (Yaqui), guitar legend Link Wray (Shawnee) to Sainte-Marie, Jesse Ed Davis (Kiowa/Comanche), Jimi Hendrix (Cherokee heritage) to newer artists such as Taboo (Shoshone/Mexican).

In addition to a video that discusses the musicians and their histories, the exhibition includes a colorful, full-length leather coat that belonged to rock legend Hendrix. Other objects to be displayed include Wray’s 1958 Danelectro Longhorn guitar, a double-platinum album from heavy-metal drummer Randy Castillo (Isleta Pueblo) and the famous green guitar from funk guitarist Salas. 

Visitors will be able to use interactive iPads that include additional media from artists featured in the exhibition, including Jim Pepper (Caw/Creek), Jimmy Carl Black (Cheyenne), Rickey Medlocke, Debora Iyall (Cowlitz), Micky Free (Cherokee/Comanche), Chuck Billy (Pomo) and Lila Downs (Zapotec).

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center is located at One Bowling Green in New York City, across from Battery Park. The museum is free and open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays until 8 p.m.  By subway, the museum may be reached by the 1 to South Ferry, the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green or the R or W to Whitehall Street. The museum’s website is

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