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Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae

Documentary chronicling the rocksteady era of Jamaican music in the 1960s, which gave birth to reggae. Some of the island's greatest singers and players perform a reunion concert.

The rocksteady era of Jamaican music in the mid-to-late 1960s is considered a golden age because rocksteady's sweet, soulful vocals, romantic but often socially conscious lyrics and prominent basslines gave birth to reggae, which went on to capture the world.

This documentary chronicles the coming together of rocksteady's surviving vocal stars - artists like the Tamlins, U-Roy, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles from the Heptones, Judy Mowatt, Dawn Penn, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths - and some of the island's greatest players, to celebrate their greatest 60s hits, perform a reunion concert and celebrate that golden era. Think of it as a kind of Buena Vista Social Club for the great 60s architects of Jamaican music. It is also a beautiful portrait of Jamaica.

In 1962, Jamaica gained its independence from Great Britain. There was celebration, optimism, economic growth and opportunity. Recording studios popped up all over Kingston and a generation of great singers and players emerged playing the tuneful, mellow music that became known as rocksteady - tunes like The Tide Is High, Rivers of Babylon and You Don't Love Me Anymore, No No No, which were so successfully celebrated by UB40 on their Labour of Love albums. By 1968, Jamaica's economic bubble had burst and social unrest took to the streets. As poverty, violence and political upheaval spread, rocksteady became politicised, upped its tempo and began to evolve into the music they call reggae.

1 hour, 35 minutes

Last on

Sun 13 Feb 2011 21:00

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Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • Rocksteady Band & Singers

    People Rocksteady

  • Hopetown Lewis & The Tamlins

    People Rocksteady

  • Rocksteady Musician

    Unidentified flute music

  • Stranger Cole & Rocksteady Band

    Morning Train

  • Stranger Cole & Uroy

    Morning Train

  • Stranger Cole

    Rough and Tough

  • Hopetown Lewis & Rocksteady Band

    Take It Easy

  • Judy Mowatt & Rocksteady Band

    Silent River Runs Deep

  • Rocksteady Band

    Band rehearsing

  • Alpha Boys' School Band

    Alpha Boys' School band warming up

  • Rocksteady Band

    Band warming up

  • Marcia Griffiths & Rocksteady Band

    The Tide is High

  • Marcia Griffiths (acapella)

    The Tide is High

  • Marcia Griffiths

    The Tide is High

  • Hopetown Lewis & Rocksteady Band

    By the Rivers of Babylon

  • Rocksteady Band & Singers

    By the Rivers of Babylon

  • Dermot Fagan

    By the Rivers of Babylon

  • Dawn Penn & Rocksteady Band

    You Don't Love Me, No No No

  • Rocksteady Band member singing

    Nice Time

  • Derrick Morgan

    Tougher Than Tough

  • Derrick Morgan

    Tougher Than Tough & Rocksteady Band

  • Ken Boothe & Rocksteady Band

    Shanty Town

  • Ken Boothe

    Shanty Town

  • Uroy

    Stop That Train

  • Leroy Sibbles & Band

    Equal Rights

  • Ken Boothe & Rocksteady Band

    Freedom Street

  • Hopetown Lewis

    In a Vision

  • Untitled

    Stranger Cole & Gladdy Anderson with the Alpha Boys’ School Band -Love Me Today

  • Ken Boothe

    Nice Time

  • Lynn Taitt

    Bog Walk

  • Derrick Morgan

    Conquering Ruler

  • Rocksteady Musician

    Unidentified humming

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