CANADA – 2009 – 97 MIN – COLOUR - FEATURE - IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY STASHA BADER
What is Rocksteady? Rocksteady is a music style that developed in Jamaica in the late sixties of the last century and is the ultimate predecessor and foundation of Reggae. For the untrained ear, it sounds just the same. Out of this era come a few songs which have become world hits in later interpretations, such as "The Tide is High" by Blondie or "No No No" by Dawn Penn. The record that will be released along with the movie will include all these major hits.
Come with us to Kingston to find the old neighbourhoods and studios and get ready to see where Reggae was born. Join us to learn about the origins of Reggae and get ready to meet the people who created it. Lean back to enjoy the caribbean spirit, see them play their old hits and get ready to hear the sweet music. Or simply: Get ready to Rocksteady!
The documentary film ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE is a musical journey to Jamaica’s Golden Age of music, Rocksteady. The film features the music and stories of the legendary singers and musicians of the Rocksteady era. They come together after 40 years to record an album of Rocksteady hits, to perform together again at an All-Stars reunion concert in Kingston, Jamaica, and to tell their story.
Rocksteady was the rage on the Caribbean island from 1966-69. By 1970, Rocksteady had transformed into Reggae, the popular musical style known and loved around the world today. While everybody has heard the music of Bob Marley, the superstar of Reggae, few people know that it was Rocksteady that developed the buoyant rhythms, prominent bass pulse, soulful vocals and socially conscious lyrics that gave Reggae its power.
In their own words, the Rocksteady singers and musicians tell the audience about the 1960s in Jamaica, a roller-coaster decade during which the island was transformed politically, socially, economically and culturally.
In 1962, the island gained its independence from Great Britain. During the next few years, there was celebration, optimism, economic growth and opportunity. Recording studios popped up all over Kingston, competed for the best artists and produced an astounding number of songs, many of which became hits in Jamaica and overseas.
Many wonderful and famous songs were created during this era, such as “You Don’t Love Me Anymore, No No No,” “Tide is High” and “Rivers of Babylon.” By 1968, however, Jamaica’s economic bubble had burst and unemployed youths fought with police for control of the streets. As violence, poverty and political upheaval spread, Rocksteady artists stopped singing about love and romance and instead gave voice to the social problems around them.
The performers include Hopeton Lewis, a Gospel-Reggae singer in New York who recorded the first Rocksteady song “Take it Easy” when he was 16; Dawn Penn, nowadays a community worker in London, whose Rocksteady song “You Don’t Love Me Anymore, No No No,” was re-recorded by many other artists and became a world hit; Wilburn “Stranger” Cole (“Love me this Evening”), who had left Jamaica for a new life in Canada; Marcia Griffiths, a Reggae performer who still tours the world (“Tide is High”); Ken Boothe, who performs in Reggae festivals worldwide (“Shanty Town, 007”); Derrick Morgan (“Tougher than Tough”), a famous Ska singer who also had numerous hits during the Rocksteady era; Leroy Sibbles (“Equal Rights”), who, as part of the Heptones, created many Rocksteady songs; and U-Roy (“Stop That Train”), a “toaster” who influenced “rap music” in the U.S.; and Judy Mowatt (“Silent River Runs Deep”), who, with Marcia Griffiths and Rita Marley, was part of the I-Threes, legendary backup singers for Bob Marley. In a special appearance, Rita Marley tells the audience about her life in Trenchtown in the 1960s with Bob Marley.
The musicians featured in the film include Earnest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Jackie Jackson, Gladstone Anderson, Hux Brown, Lloyd Parks and Scully Simms among others.
The film features a mix of studio recording sessions at Tuff Gong Studios, rarely seen archival footage from the period and interviews with the performers at home or at places on the island that had had profound effects on their music and lives.
The film takes the audience to the roots of Reggae and also draws a colorful and enriching portrait of the founders of this great musical heritage.
"The best kinds of music documentaries do more than just educate and entertain; they send newfound fans into frenzies, delving into the discographies of the artists profiled. With its in-depth exploration of the Jamaican genre of rocksteady, following many of the movement’s most celebrated stars in preparation for a recent reunion, ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE succeeds on all fronts."
- FFWD WEEKLY
"Griffiths says reggae artists have a duty to use music to educate, uplift and unite the world, adding that some still don't understand the responsibility they have. 'If you are chosen to do this work, then you must contribute in a positive way,' she says. 'If you're in it for any other reason, then you will fall by the wayside.'"
- THE TORONTO STAR
"Rocksteady can be treated like the Buena Vista Social Club breakout record: a solid primer, but one that should be a guide to delving deeper and seeking out more of the original material." (CD Review)
- VUE WEEKLY
"Solid intro into musical genre..."
"ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE is a new documentary about Jamaican music in the 1960s. The film covers a brief period in that country's music, a period that became the platform upon which reggae was built and upon which careers like Bob Marley's were founded."
- OTTAWA SUN
"...love saturates every single frame of ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE, one of the best docs about Jamaican music ever filmed."
- OTTAWA XPRESS
"(a) contemporary timelessness"
- WORLD MUSIC CENTRAL
"You’ve heard it performed in the streets of Toronto, now learn about the fascinating history of reggae music in the new documentary film"
- THE NATIONAL POST
ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE make's NOW's Flick Finder!
- NOW MAGAZINE
9.2 out of 10! Rajo loves this entertaining new doc about Jamaican Rocksteady music. Perfect for rainy days...
- THE SUBSTREAM
"Sibbles sees rocksteady revival. Hopes new documentary will follow trail blazed by the Buena Vista Social Club."
- THE TORONTO STAR
" a rich and rewarding music documentary endowed with a wonderful sense of the significance of its subject, with revealing tales"
- THE TORONTO STAR
"While the interviews offer great insights to viewers already familiar with the subjects, the majority of people will care about the music the most. And they shouldn't be disappointed with such songs as "People Rocksteady," "Equal Rights," (both by Sibbles), "Rivers Of Babylon" (Hopeton Lewis), "Shanty Town (007)" (Boothe), "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" (Penn), "Tide Is High" (Griffiths), "Tougher Than Tough" (Morgan) and "Stop That Train" (U-Roy)."
- CHART ATTACK
"There's such a combination of personal warmth, talent, history and creativity that it's impossible not to get caught up in their pride and love for the music they created."
- THE GLOBE AND MAIL
"One of the pleasures of popular music is its unpredictability: You just never know what sound or song is going to strike that magical, mystical chord with a listener and change his or her tastes, maybe even his life."
- THE GLOBE AND MAIL
"the strength of a solid musical doc like ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE. Give a song back its heritage and let it groove."
- NOW MAGAZINE
"an engaging celebration of the smooth, lovers-friendly musical style that ruled the island in the years between ska and reggae."
- EYE WEEKLY
"a valuable introduction to a valuable musical genre."
"Sibbles' profile has enjoyed a boost since the release of the documentary ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE, which I talked about in last week's column. Sibbles also contributes two songs to the film's soundtrack."
- TORONTO SUN
"This well-crafted Swiss-Canadian coproduction documents a reunion of surviving pioneers of rocksteady, the slow-beat, skank-heavy sound in question."
- THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT
"Stascha Bader’s charming documentary finally gives the under-appreciated music genre its due."
"The 90-minute film features interviews with some of the genre's leading performers and musicians. It premiered earlier this month at the Montreal International Jazz Festival which had a slot dedicated to the sound."
- JAMAICA GLEANER NEWS
"I was lucky enough to be in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to see the opening of the film ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE by Swiss director Stascha Bader. What a wonderful film. Just amazing..."
- DR. WHO'S JAM-TEX MUSIC BLOG
" riveting documentary"
- URBAN PLANNER
"ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE is an upcoming music documentary about some of the more unheralded progenitors of reggae music, including Marcia Griffiths, Ken Boothe, Stranger Cole and Marley backup singer Judy Mowatt. The movie's world premiere will happen at Montreal's Musee D'Art Contemporain from July 4-12, and this Sunday at 9 p.m. the aforementioned legends will perform the classics live."
- CHART ATTACK
"ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE recalls an era with an album, a documentary and a big reunion concert"
- MONTREAL MIRROR
"The film features new recording sessions with some of the artists’ biggest hits, which will be released as part of the film’s official soundtrack. Among its highlights is an interview with Rita Marley, the widow of reggae icon Bob Marley, as well as a scene with songstress Judy Mowatt."
- THE SUBURBAN
"The superb documentary film that spawned this soundtrack reunites some of the seminal Jamaican artists behind the rocksteady movement of the mid-1960s — and you absolutely must catch it."
"In the style of Wim Wenders's Buena Vista Social Club, ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE reunites some of the old-timers behind those great records to revisit their hits in the studio and, ultimately, to perform a live show. Along the way, they tell their stories whileBader examines the political, social, economic and cultural changes that surrounded the music."
"The much-anticipated Alpha Blondy concert, the momentous Burning Spear and Toots & The Maytals doubleheader, as well as the massive outdoor free Rocksteady concert with the biggest stars of that era are a music-lover's wet dream.And it was all sparked by the extraordinary 2009 documentary film ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE, which is also having its world premiere during the Jazz Festival."
- THE HOUR
"a top notch cast of veteran singers and players to let them shine once again"
"l'effort est plus qu'honorable" - 3.5 Stars!
"I would definitely recommend this documentary to anyone interested in this kind of music, or even other types of music in general. A well put together documentary."
- ONE OUT OF FIVE
"ROCKSTEADY: THE ROOTS OF REGGAE, a documentary about the Jamaican music genre that preceded reggae, opens in Canada today."