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Stabroek News

Music pioneers to 'rocksteady' together
published: Sunday | March 23, 2008

Krista Henry, Staff Reporter

Marcia Griffiths

The legends of rocksteady will come to life in the new feature film Get Rock to Rocksteady: the Roots of Reggae.

The 1960s was a decade of great musical creation in Jamaica. It was a time when the political, social and cultural fabric of the country was transformed. Producing hits such as No No No, The Tide Is High and By The Rivers of Babylon, rocksteady propelled Jamaica to the top of the world. The new film, Get Rock to Rocksteady: the Roots of Reggae, explores this turbulent era as it was experienced by the singers and musicians of the rocksteady genre.

The singers and musicians who created these soulful and melodic treasures will reunite in Jamaica next month, some for the first time in 40 years. They will tell their story to the filmmakers, record an album of their old hits and also perform together at a special reunion concert on April 19. At the end of March, an international film crew will be in the island to start production on the film.

Robert Boulos, line producer of Get Rock to Rocksteady: the Roots of Reggae, told The Sunday Gleaner: "The idea come from the Swiss director Stascha Bader. The idea came after he was studying for his Ph.D., in Jamaica, based on dancehall music. He fell in love with rocksteady, which he saw as the stepping stone to reggae. It's the missing link, and the world should know about it."

According to Boulos, the project is two years in the making. The musicians who are flying in for the film, record and concert are singer, Dawn Penn, arranger and band leader Lynn Taitt, and singer, Hopeton Lewis. They will be joined on stage and in the recording studio at Tuff Gong by the legendary performers who still live in Jamaica, including Ken Boothe, Judy Mowatt, Strangejah Cole, Derrick Morgan, Leroy Sibbles, Marcia Griffiths, Scully Simms, The Tamlins and U-Roy.

Also in the film are musicians Gladdy Anderson, Hux Brown, Sly Dunbar, Lloyd Parkes, Jackie Jackson, Headley Bennett, Glen DaCosta, Vin Gordon, David Madden and Bongo Herman.


Bongo Herman

In a release on the film, executive producer Michael Prupas said: "We wish that Bob Marley was still with us so that he could be in this film and singing at the concert. We are fortunate to have a number of the remaining great artistes of the rocksteady era still here to remember those eventful times and to make their music once again."

Boulos told The Sunday Gleaner that the majority of the film would be shot in Jamaica, some would be shot in New York at Hopeton Lewis' home, and other scenes in Canada. In the release, Lyn Taitt, now 73 years old, said: "It's a dream come true for me to be making music again with my old friends. I left in 1968 and haven't been back. I told the film's producers I would only participate if they brought together my original band members. And they did."

Boulos claimed that the film had to be done now as "all these guys are getting older and older by the minute, they are very frail so we have to do it now. These entertainers have been active but never together again, they've crossed paths but never together. This could be their legacy".

Jamaica Trade and Invest has been facilitating the process of creating Get Rock to Rocksteady: the Roots of Reggae. According to Del Crooks of Jamaica Trade and Invest, "This is a great project which shows the evolution of the music from the start, rocksteady's, impact on reggae music. It's an exciting project that is employing quite a few Jamaicans".

Boulos said: "Everywhere, everyone is talking about this project, saying, 'Wow!' This is a great line-up. Everyone is excited."

He also said that it would not be a straight-to-DVD film, but a blockbuster.

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