Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, a documentary on the Jamaican beat that preceded reggae, will be released in Canada on Friday. 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.
Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, which was partially funded by the Jamaican government, is co-produced by Stascha Bader of Switzerland and Canadian Moss Raxlen.
'A musical gem'
Bader, who says he has been listening to Jamaican popular music since he was a teenager, told The Canadian Free Press that discovering rocksteady was like 'finding a musical gem'. He and Raxlen worked on the project for five years. They were in Jamaica in April last year, completinginterviews and a soundtrack with big rocksteady names like singers John Holt, Leroy Sibbles and Marcia Griffiths. The documentary also has interviews with guitarist Lynford 'Hux' Brown, keyboardist Gladstone Anderson and bass player Jackie Jackson.
Rocksteady replaced the jazzy ska as Jamaicans' beat of choice in 1966. It lasted for only three years but produced some of the most memorable sounds in the annals of the country's music, largely through harmony groups like the Heptones, the Paragons and soulful singers such as Toots Hibbert, Alton Ellis and Ken Boothe.
Although rocksteady has never earned the international acclaim of ska or reggae, it has its share of famous admirers. British band UB40 has covered several songs from the era while American punk band Blondie had a number-one hit with the Paragons song, The Tide Is High. Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae's Canadian run begins in Vancouver and Toronto. It is scheduled to open in Ottawa in August.