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March 29, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Rocksteady – the Roots of Reggae


Rocksteady is a documentary that follows the musicians who developed the rocksteady sound as they gather in Kingston, Jamaica, to celebrate their musical origins and play a reunion concert.

Rocksteady was a development of ‘step’ music that was popular in Jamaica in the 1950s and early 1960s. Many of the newer musicians could not keep up with the fast step beat, so rocksteady, with a slower tempo, emerged to suit those less technical. However, with the amount of screen time these musicians get to show their craft, it is evident that they have perfected their technical skill over the years.

The documentary touches on the important political and social climate that heavily influenced the origins of rocksteady. Following Jamaica’s independence in 1962, the country was experiencing an intensive growth period during which rocksteady became a way of telling the people of Jamaica to ‘slow down’. During the 1960s a high unemployment rate led many young, bored men to join gangs and cause trouble. The subculture of ‘rude boys’ subsequently developed, and this became the subject matter of several rocksteady songs.

There are many beautiful scenes throughout the documentary, including extensive shots of the Jamaican landscape. Humour is well used to create many heartwarming moments. One such scene occurs when two of the old musicians visit a local school and sing with the school band.

A large part of the film is made up of the musicians playing together in the studio, yet this is well balanced with a wide range of archival footage. Scenes depicting locals dancing to step music is contrasted with political news footage of Selassie’s 1966 visit to Jamaica.

It would have been nice to see more detail connecting the individual musicians to their original music within the rocksteady genre. I found it interesting when they did this with Ernest Ranglin and Rita Marley and would have enjoyed finding out more about the other musicians.

This is a good watch for anyone who enjoys music documentaries, especially those with specific interests in roots, reggae and ska music. On a sly side note, Rocksteady would also be well accompanied with some appropriate enhancements to make the visual and aural experience that much more sweeter.

Directed by: Stascha Bader
Part of the World Cinema Showcase


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