Rocksteady: The Roots Of Reggae

In between the early sixties Ska sound and Reggae, which emerged at the end of the decade, was a style called Rocksteady. Borne in Kingston, Jamaica, Rocksteady was a slowed-down, more soulful version of Ska that developed in the mid-1960s. Forty years later, the producers of this film reunited the survival Rocksteady singers and musicians to record and tour once more. In a way, this can be compared to the Buena Vista Social Club…the vibrant spirit of the music is the same.

Among the musicians featured are guitarist Ernest Ranglin, drummer Sly Dunbar and singers Judy Mowatt, Stranger Cole, Derrick Morgan, Ken Boothe and Marcia Griffiths. Rita Marley also makes a “guest” appearance. Along with footage of these Rocksteady greats recording in the studio, each of the main participants has the opportunity to tell his or her life story.  It’s a wonderful history lesson  and an insight into Jamaican culture.

Former I-Threes singer Judy Mowatt is one of the highlights. She describes what it was like to be a young girl making her first recording in a Kingston studio. The engineers and producers were unforgiving and she was shaking at the microphone.  The music includes Hopeton Lewis’ Take It Easy, Marcia Griffiths’ The Tide Is High (later a hit for Blondie) and Ken Boothe’s Shanty Town.

In addition to the documentary, a one-hour Rocksteady concert, recorded in Montreal at the 2009 Jazz Festival, is included.

Marty Duda