photo manipulation by nacrowe
hosted by BRITISH rapper and poet AKALA, ROOTS, REGGAE, REBELLION (BBC, 2016) is a welcome introductory documentary about the political and religious history of the RASTAFARI movement and its influence on ROOTS REGGAE music and identity of JAMAICANS both home and abroad.
much like the AMERICAN SOUTH, the CARIBBEAN island of JAMAICA was heavily involved with the MIDDLE PASSAGE to satiate its plantations when it was SPANISH and later a BRITISH colony. slaves on plantations were treated cruelly and made to adopt the religion of their oppressor, CHRISTIANITY. the RASTAFARI movement can be seen historically as a means of the local population rebuilding a culture that had been stripped of them by their BRITISH colonial oppressors. a means of connecting with their AFRICAN past and celebrating their heritage and owning their own identity. obviously this put them in opposition to powers that be, before and after gaining independence from the UNITED KINGDOM in 1962. the music that rose from this counter culture promoted empowering ideals of PAN-AFRICANISM, peace, self-sufficiency and liberation.
and for me that is the legacy of ROOTS REGGAE music, its ability to empower the listener. being a BRITISH documentary, it expands the influence of ROOTS REGGAE to the DIASPORA of immigrants in BRITAIN in the 1960s and 1970s and how it helped provided a sense of identity and unity to a disenfranchised community that bore the brunt of systematic racist practices and routine brutality at the hands of the police, not to mention the rise of the NATIONAL FRONT. ROOTS REGGAE galvanized this population, as well as strange allies in the concurrent PUNK ROCK movement, to fight oppression and seek strength in their community. I and I indeed. at its core, ROOTS REGGAE by definition is subversive, which most people forget.
one other compelling feature of this documentary was a brief interview with SLY & ROBBIE, the production dup and legendary rhythm section that worked with PETER TOSH and BURNING SPEAR among many others. they basically breakdown the difference between the basic percussion and bass patterns common in SKA, ROCKSTEADY and REGGAE. essentially SKA and ROCKSTEADY have a similar groove that is heavily accented with a high-hat on an off beat. SKA has a relatively fast tempo and ROCKSTEADY is pulled way back. they are very similar and focused compositionally around the drums. REGGAE on the other hand is wholly based structurally around bass parts with the drums following it. its an entirely different animal structurally and has a very different effect. its one thing to write about it, but this documentary has the duo actually play them.
touches like this make this a great introductory film for the layman unfamiliar with this incredible genre of music that shows the enduring power of music from the AFRICAN DIASPORA. a great entry point to a bigger conversation about global culture and the power of music. all from this small island nation. incredible.