It’s quite amazing when you think of it, the impact that Jamaica has had on it’s former colonial master and the rest of the world. The seeds of this un-proportional influence was sown in the 50ies and 60ies when the Jamaican immigration to the UK started. Culturally BBC was seen as the enemy as they refused to air anything Jamaican (with exception of perhaps Millie Smalls and Desmond Dekker). Exactly when this started to change i don’t know but as of today they are responsible for some of the best documentary material there is on Reggae (as well as some flawed titles like “Reggae Britannica).
The latest (to my knowledge) in their line of documentaries are “Roots, Reggae, Rebellion” where British Rapper “Akala” traces the roots of Reggae and RastafarI in both Jamaica and his native England. Let’s start with saying that at 59 minutes and such a vast subject to cover it paints the history with broad strokes, there’s no time to get overly nerdy and particular with the subject. While this may sound as a negative thing i must say that “Roots, Reggae, Rebellion” manages to work wonders with it’s slim running time.
The research behind this movie is immaculate and covers a lot of ground, we get to visit Pinnacle, Haile Selassie I’s visit to Jamaica is covered, the birth of Ska, Dj’s such as “Big Youth” and the musical duo of “Sly & Robie”, social unrest in the UK and the emergence of a homegrown, UK roots scene, “Dennis Bovell” etc… I’m impressed at the pacing and how it jumps back and forth between Jamaica and the UK without loosing focus. It deals equally with social conditions and the music which followed, similar attempts have been made in documentaries like “Journey to Jah” but with much less successful results.
It’s easy to point out everything that is not there like for example how they totally leave out “Studio One” and a lot of important artists. It would have been great if this had been a tv-series so that “Akala” could have fleshed things out a bit more, feature anecdotes from the featured characters etc…. I could spend hours writing wish lists of what I would have wanted to be included but let’s face it, what we do get is awesome!
Being that I’m the biggest Reggae nerd ever it does not take much to satisfy my needs when it comes to a Reggae documentary but the true test of an documentary is whether it manages to interest someone who has no previous interest in the subject featured. I would say that this definitely is one of those documentaries. We do need a DVD release of this. In short, an awesome documentary.