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Roots, Reggae, Rebellion

British rapper and poet Akala tells the story of roots reggae, when a group of Jamaican musicians took songs of Rastafari, revolution and hope to the international stage.

In the 1970s, Jamaica came alive to the sounds of roots reggae. British rapper, poet and political commentator Akala tells the story of this golden period in the island's musical history, a time when a small group of musicians took songs of Rastafari, revolution and hope to the international stage.

Growing up in London, Akala's family immersed him in roots reggae from an early age so he has a very personal connection to the culture. It has informed his own songwriting, poetry and political worldview, but it's an upbringing that he now feels he's taken for granted.

In this documentary, Akala sets out to find out more about the music that has had such an impact on his life. He begins by exploring the music's origins in Jamaica, where it offered hope to ordinary people at a time when poverty, political violence and turmoil were ravaging the island. Artists like Bob Marley, Big Youth and Burning Spear began to write about suffering and salvation through Rastafari in their songs. Akala unpicks how all of this evolved.

Back in the UK, Akala reveals how the Jamaican artists and our own British roots reggae bands like Steel Pulse became a cultural lifeline for young black people who were experiencing racism and rejection in their own country. He shows how roots reggae also related to a wider audience, its revolutionary message connecting with an increasingly marginalised UK youth.

1 hour

Last on

Sat 11 May 2019 01:00

Music Played

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

  • 00:03

    Bob Marley & The Wailers

    Want More

  • 00:04

    The Abyssinians

    Declaration Of Rights

  • 00:04

    King Tubby & Carlton Patterson

    King At The Controls

  • 00:06

    Third World

    Jah Glory

  • 00:06

    Charlie Binger & His Quartet

    Jamaica Is The Place To Go

  • 00:08

    The Upsetters

    Zion's Blood

  • 00:10

    Alton Ellis

    Rock Steady

  • 00:12

    Burning Spear

    Slavery Days

  • 00:14

    Bob Marley & The Wailers

    400 Years

  • 00:14

    Burning Spear

    Marcus Garvey

  • 00:16

    The Silvertones

    African Dub

  • 00:18

    Folkes Brothers

    Oh Carolina

  • 00:19

    The Upsetters

    Black Vest

  • 00:21

    Lord Tanamo

    Dash Of The Sunshine (feat. The Skatalites)

  • 00:23

    The Skatalites

    Guns Of Navarone

  • 00:24

    Laurel Aitken

    Hailes Selassie

  • 00:24

    The Upsetters

    Dread Lion

  • 00:25

    Bob Andy

    Sun Shines For Me

  • 00:26

    Bob Andy


  • 00:31

    Dennis Brown

    Only A Smile

  • 00:32

    Big Youth

    Dread Organ

  • 00:32

    Bob Marley & The Wailers

    No Water

  • 00:33

    Desmond Dekker & the Aces


  • 00:21


    My Boy Lollipop

  • 00:34

    Boris Gardiner

    Elizabethan Reggae

  • 00:35

    Burning Spear

    Dread River (Jordan River)

  • 00:36

    Skin, Flesh & Bones

    Big Youth Special

  • 00:37

    Bob Marley & The Wailers

    Concrete Jungle

  • 00:39

    Bob Marley & The Wailers

    Trenchtown Rock

  • 00:39

    Bob Marley & The Wailers

    I Shot The Sheriff

  • 00:41

    The Upsetters

    Revolution Dub

  • 00:42

    The Gladiators

    Know Yourself Mankind

  • 00:44

    Junior Murvin

    Police And Thieves

  • 00:47

    Poet and the Roots

    All Wi Doin' is Defendin'

  • 00:51

    The Heptones

    Sufferer's Time

  • 00:53

    Bob Marley & The Wailers


  • 00:56

    Generation X

    Your Generation

  • 00:56

    The Damned

    New Rose

  • 00:57

    The Ruts

    Babylon'S Burning

  • 00:58

    Brian Eno


  • 00:59

    Damian Marley

    Welcome to Jamrock

  • 00:59


    Who Knows (Shy FX Remix) (feat. Chronixx)

    Remix Artist: Shy FX.


Role Contributor
Presenter Akala
Writer Akala
Writer James Hale
Producer James Hale
Director James Hale
Executive Producer James Hayes
Production Company Lazerbeam


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