Deep Roots Music
Deep Roots Music is the closest thing to a comprehensive documentary on reggae, ending in the dancehall era of the early 80s. Incisively narrated by none other than DJ Mikey Dread (The Clash’s producer and reggae mentor) and shot by award-winning DP Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men), this seminal, multi-part history of reggae is no PBS-style primer. Letting the music speak for “i-self,” this British series lingers on performances and evokes the languid, severe island life while honestly exploring the spiritual and militant aspects of reggae.
Directed by Howard Johnson
This Rastafarian-themed episode features: stirring newsreel footage of Jamaican elders and youth rushing across a landing strip to welcome Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to the island in 1966; a silhouetted, flag-waving Lee “Scratch” Perry introducing himself as King David; Bob Marley channeling James Brown in an extended workout of “War;” footage from the 1920s of a motorcade of Marcus Garvey and his Black nationalists standing nobly; Perry’s tween daughter accompanying a breathtaking version of “No Woman No Cry” in the rubble of Black Ark, her father’s studio; Nyabinghi drumming elder Count Ossie performing for his Highness; and the Mighty Diamonds going truly deep in the studio.
Word, Sound and Power
Directed by Jerry Stein
“Unique in its blend of tension and relaxation, movement between city and the country…the closest film audiences are likely to get to modern Jamaican music and to the ideas, experiences and emotions behind [it].”—Greil Marcus
Seminal session band Soul Syndicate played on over a thousand records, backing everyone from Burning Spear to Bob Marley, and are responsible for famous reggae “riddims” (instrumentals) including the timeless “Stalag 17,” heard on Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” and featuring band leader George “Fully” Fulwood’s anchoring bass. Focusing on Fully and legendary lead guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith, Stein trains his lens on performances and lengthy interviews in the hills high above, with Rasta consciousness ever-present.