23April2014

Now Playing:
Accessing Current Song...
You are here: Home Reggae News General Reggae News Do The Reggae Hollywood Zion
01 August 2012 Written by 

Do The Reggae Hollywood Zion

"Reggae is only what you hear and think is reggae," Peter Tosh pronounces at the beginning of Heartland Reggae (1980)—and a lot of what sounds like just that is playing at BAMcinématek during the long-weekend program Do the Reggae, which ends on the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. Concert documentary Heartland Reggae, to give one essential example, is an effort to record the music's Woodstock or Wattstax, cherry-picking performances from 1978's One Love Peace Concert, arranged to squash beef between Jamaica's then-warring political parties. Homecoming headliner Bob Marley is supported by Tosh, performing an interminable "Legalize It," along with 11-year-old dynamo Little Junior Tucker, doing his best James Brown, and exuberantly shirtless Jacob Miller, antagonizing the police presence with a wielded spliff. (Miller died in 1980, while his bandmates, Inner Circle, later found running-dog fame with "Bad Boys," the theme song from COPS.)

Deep Roots Music, a six-episode history broadcast on the BBC's Channel 4 in 1983, offers a somewhat more comprehensive definition of reggae than Tosh's. The episode titled "Ranking Sounds," for example, sits down with the music's progenitors—such as Skatalites saxophonist Tommy McCook, who explains the bridge from ska to rocksteady to reggae—or with their widows, as in the case of Duke Reid, operator of the 1950s' most influential "sound system," the mobile DJ setups with fiercely loyal followings, which constituted floating outdoor parties. (The opening night at BAM will be graced by Kingston-born DJ Ranking Joe, commanding the Deadly Dragon Sound System.) The "Black Ark" episode provides a stage for legendary producer/eccentric Lee "Scratch" Perry to hold court, as series narrator Mikey Dread explains the Rastafari faith, so central to reggae music during the politicized and prophetic period highlighted here, and details some of its tenets, including the deification of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I and a sort-of black Zionism, which anticipates return to the lost paradise of Africa.

Per one Rastafari's improvised ditty in 1982's Land of Look Behind, Jamaica is but "an African outpost in the West"—a lush, gloomy, and gorgeous one in Alan Greenberg's film, a hypnotic documentary shot in May and June, 1981, in the aftermath of Bob Marley's death. Along with one-of-a-kind footage of Marley's service and funeral cortège, Greenberg, a sometimes-associate of Werner Herzog, portrays Jamaica as half-wild and mythical, encompassing inhuman prison stockades and a spiritual proving ground in the tropical forests; a place where heaven and earth literally meet in the recurring image of the Blue Mountains wreathed in clouds.

The Rastafari dream of promised-land paradise explains the otherwise sore-thumb presence in the series of Buck and the Preacher (1972), Sidney Poitier's debut feature as a director, beginning his underappreciated project of self-producing a savvy black pop cinema. Set in a postwar West where "ex-slaves journeyed out of the land of bondage, in search of a new frontier where they could be free at last," Poitier stars as the wagon master of a group of freedmen heading to Colorado Territory, pursued by plantation-hired nightriders. Franco Rosso's 1981 Babylon marks another far-flung point in the diaspora: South London's Jamaican enclaves of Brixton and Lewisham. Brinsley Forde (of the group Aswad) stars as Blue, the front man of sound system Ital Lion; the film takes place as Forde's outfit prepares for the Grand Battle of the Sound, around which anecdotal scenes are strung, such as haggling for exclusive rights to a new record in a walkup office, an engagement party in a church basement, and the thuggish holdup of a gay man, which offers a queasy illustration of the logic through which one vulnerable, marginalized group victimizes another. Offering street-level reportage of the black Briton's plight as the neo-fascist National Front was at the peak of its popularity, Babylon's well-acted to boot—the two-tone friendship between Blue and his white mate (Karl Howman) is felt on a human rather than politically expedient level, and its dissolution is painful to watch.

Do the Reggae would not be complete without what is certainly the most famous reggae movie, 1972's Jimmy Cliff vehicle The Harder They Come, which did for Jamaican music what Enter the Dragon did for martial arts. Somewhat lesser-known, but undeservedly so, is Theodoros Bafaloukos's 1978 Rockers. The film congregates a summit of the biggest names in reggae to enact a paltry fictional plot, which has drummer Horsemouth (Leroy Wallace, playing himself), a feckless father who only stops home for a clean shirt, cadging enough money to buy himself a motorcycle and start up a record delivery service. Whenever the cast are called upon to move the story forward, the strain of the effort is evident, but when Rockers follows the rhythm of Horsemouth's arm-swaying saunter and the ubiquitous soundtrack, it's just about perfect. Horsemouth's perambulations take him through through a number of hanging-out vignettes—a dice game, adolescent kickboxers sparring in matching shell suits, the rural record shops along his delivery route—composed like genre paintings. Taken as a whole, these images gives a vivid picture of the social reality of Trench Town, Kingston, 1978. (And I do mean vivid—the hi-def restoration is a beauty.)

SOURCE: ocweekly



Related items

Login to post comments

Giving Back To Reggae141

We know how much you love and cherish the top notch service that we provide, by way of reggae news and non-stop roots reggae music with no commercial breaks. Reggae141 depends on your donations to keep us on the air, no matter how big no matter how small. We appreciate it all, so please consider donating to the cause. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you give shall it be measured to you again. Your Donations are greatly appreciated and welcomed.   Thankfully Yours, Reggae141 Staff



Top Requests

Shout It Out Loud

Every year millions of Asian, European, American and Other World tourists visit these islands under the sun to experience a little bit of paradise. With a distinct diversity in culture, norms and way of life, it is almost always guaranteed to have a new and different experience every time you vacation.  This Reggae Radio known as Reggae141 promotes, inspires, guides and fortifies by way of musical entertainment.

Since its discovery in 1960 Reggae music has healed many of the broken hearted, empowered the oppressed & recognized the assiduous reggae artists for jobs well done.  This is the reason why we take pride in doing whatever it takes to bring you nothing but the Caribbean’s best straight to your Internet radios, computers and mobile phones.  Experience a little bit of Caribbean culture no matter where you are located. 

Thank you for choosing this Online Reggae Radio Station and we do hope that you find the Reggae Music we broadcast uplifting.

Our Partners