Roots Rock Reggae
May 30, 2001

Label Shanachie
Format DVD - Region Free
Languages English
Subtitles None
Length 60 minutes
Producer/Director Jeremy Marre
Roots Rock Reggae subtitled 'Inside the Jamaican Music Scene' is part of a superb series of music documentaries (Beats of the Heart) by noted English Filmmaker Jeremy Marre that examines from a street-level perspective a different music scene from around the world.

The documentary was shot in 1977 and offers a fascinating glimpse into the roots of reggae from the rough and tumble Trenchtown ghetto to the placid hills behind Kingston where followers of Rastafari drum and sing hymns. It's a street-level tour of the vital music scene in Kingston, with rehearsal and concert footage by Jimmy Cliff, The Gladiators, Joe Higgs, The Mighty Diamonds, Bob Marley, Third World and Jacob Miller with Inner Circle.

Watch a recording session with producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry, The Upsetters, Junior Murvin and The Heptones, which happens to be the highlight of the movie. Inside the Black Ark studio the viewer can witness the process of building a riddim and the voicing afterwards. Be part of an audition by the late Jack Ruby as he sits in his yard and some youths perform their songs, hoping to get a deal. Jimmy Cliff is being interviewed in the studio before he sings a sufferer's tune. Although he's being neglected by the 'more serious' reggae fan, his contribution proves that he was one of reggae's strongest forces. Joe Higgs delivers a moving 'Trenchtown' message which reminds me of Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song'. Prince Tony Robinson and engineer Erroll Thomspon rehearse two songs (Hearsay and Jah Works) with The Gladiators, followed by the a glimpse into Randy's Record Shop, where the discjockeys and music fans are eagerly searching and buying the latest 45's. The Mighty Diamonds were almost at the height of their career and here you will see them perform Right Time, backed by Lloyd Parks with his band.

Contributions by The Abyssinians (Satta) as well as Third World (Jah Glory) and vintage footage of Haille Selassie's visit to the island point to the crucial connection that exists between reggae music and the Rastafari belief. Deejay U Brown sings his own message over a wicked Joe Gibbs riddim on a local soundsystem, and Daddy U Roy performance is being well received by the audience. Finally you can see how Jacob Miller, Inner Circle and Tommy Cowan work on a new song, followed by a live gig in Kingston.

This excellent documentary captures Kingston and reggae music right in the heart of the roots reggae movement of 1977. We see the artists in their prime, performing in their own environment, all within Jamaica. It's probably the most moving document within reggae music, especially since it tries to reveal all the aspects of Jamaican ghetto living. Anyonwe who loves (or hates) reggae music should watch this documentary... Truly essential food for thought.