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CLOSE-UP : Indigenous Rock

August 14, 1994|Janet Kinosian

Robby Romero learned the hard way that the adage, "write what you know," applies to musicians, too. Romero was 14 when he met Dennis Hopper in Taos. The fledgling musician took Hopper's advice to try his luck in Los Angeles and was soon opening for Paul Butterfield and hanging around with the likes of Bob Dylan, Gene Clark of the Byrds, Rick Danko of The Band amd Leonard Cohen. He also sank into drugs and drink and, very ill, went home in the early 1980s to Indian Country to clean himself out. There, he hooked up with mentor and activist Dennis Banks, founder of the American Indian Movement, and began life on "The Red Road, the Indian Road, the good road."

Now he and his band are trying to change the world through music--and the world of music; America's social confusion is, after all, nowhere more evident than in the themes of rap and grunge. "It's anti-everything, anti-life," he says. "We're talking about 'I don't care about my life, I don't care about your life.' I'm not saying its all like that, or that it's right or wrong, I'm just saying people should pay a little more attention to it.

The 4-year-old band has performed its socially concious music with 10,000 Maniacs, Bruce Hornsby, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, and its five-song album, "Red Thunder," is distributed by Canyon Records and Indian Arts in Phoenix. Romero and drummer Benito Concha appeared in a several MTV "Free Your Mind" public service announcements, and Romero directed a VH-1 special, "Makoce Wakan: Sacred Earth" on the spiritual sites.

Romero, who is of Apache descent, believes that indigenous wisdom will "usher us into a time of healing. It's in the native prophecies," he says, "that the children of America will come to the doorstep of indigenous people. And if people don't change the way they're thinking about the Earth, our Mother, about themselves, about their part on the Sacred Circle of Life, then we'll enter--if we haven't already--the point of no return and the Earth will begin to cleanse herself. And when this cleansing process takes place there'll be no discrimination. And those who understand the natural laws of life will have an easier time."

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