Rocksteady: The Roots Of Reggae

  • Year:2009
  • Rating:G
  • Director:Stascha Bader
  • Cast:Stranger Cole (narrator), Ken Boothe, Rita Marley, Dawn Penn
  • Release Date:April 22, 2010
  • Distributor:Aztec
  • Running time:94 minutes
  • Film Worth:$8.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

While this is a competently made documentary, it offers little to convert new fans to the music


Rocksteady is the local Jamaican musical form which, beginning in 1965, succeeded ska and pre-figured reggae. Where ska had been relatively fast-tempo, rocksteady was slow, soulful and - according to one of its onscreen proponents - all about being "calm and easy." As such, it's neither inherently cinematic nor - arguably - particularly exciting.

What we have here is the usual music doco mix of straight-to-camera reminiscence and background footage. There are no voiceovers, but lots of veteran singers, players and producers recall the "romantic era" when Kingston was safe to walk around in. We see old clips of people singing in church, and locales - theatres and schools - which "hosted" the emergent genre. We hear relative obscurities, and familiar standards such as "Rivers Of Babylon" and "The Tide Is High." Rita Marley shows us, for no apparent reason, the room (a kitchen) in which she and Bob first had sex.

No-one here is very eloquent, and there are too many homilies about music being a great force "to unite the people of the world." Still, rocksteady's simplicity saved it from the convoluted irrationality of reggae. Witness the clip about the 1966 visit to Jamaica of Haile Selassie: Ethiopian emperor and - to the Rastas - adored messiah. Some of the late sixties material featured here ("Equal Rights", Derrick Morgan's "Tougher Than Tough") acknowledges the rise of "rude boys" and trouble in paradise.

Given the familiar structure (based around the inexorable build-up to a big reunion concert, in which some of the performers reunite for the first time in forty years), the climactic footage of that concert is surprisingly brief and perfunctory.

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