Añejo Mockingbird

Used to be this place was mostly about music and pop culture, but it's slowly morphed into a launching pad for finding our foster greyhounds new homes. So be it. We love the hounds and are more than happy to use our modest little blog page to reach out and snag some attention for these greyt dogs... Oh, we'll still post the occasional odd music review or rant at the state of the Redskins from time to time, but they'll hafta take a back seat to the dogs 'til further notice

Location: Pennsylvania, United States

Music geek who appreciates everything from power-pop to indie-rock and most everything in between. I especially dig Reggae and its predecessor, Ska.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Roots, Radics, Rockers.

Apologies for the lack o' postings, recently. Too much to do and too little time to do it in and all that...
Cult classic/Movie rave:

There are several cult classics of '70s era Jamaican cinema, and Rockers happens to be one of them. Along with the seminal Jimmy Cliff vehicle, The Harder They Come, and the more obscure Countryman, Rockers showcases, and shares many traits with its then-comtemporary counterparts. All three movies are lauded as much for their soundtracks as they are for their cinematic components. They're also much-noted for their gritty, slice-of-life looks at Jamaica's downtrodden and repressed, many who live in cobbled together shacks that often form villages referred to as shantytowns. Also of note, these movies dispense with traditional Hollywood formatting. The plots are (arguably) B grade at best, and largely exist to showcase the intertwining correlation between Reggae music and its undeniable effect on Jamaican life and culture. In an extension of that relationship, the actors mostly aren't actors at all; they're real-life Reggae musicians. Musicians of note, too, if you're at all familiar with '70s era Reggae. Rockers certainly doesn't deviate from this formula at all, highlighting the charisma of Robbie Shakespeare, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, and Jacob Miller among others. The "star" of Rockers, happens to be real-life drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace who's day-in-the-life activities provide the plot of the film. As plots go, it's a thinly veiled version of Robin Hood, albeit with a masquerading gaggle of Rastas instead of the usual suspects. In this setting the movie follows Horsemouth as he begs and borrows his way into finding enough cash to buy a motorcycle in which to deliver and sell records to the inimitable record shops that dot the Jamaican landscape. While out and about hustling records, Horsemouth's motorbike gets stolen by the local mafia who (inevitably) are in cahoots with the moguls of the Jamaican music industry. What comes after are the exploits of Horsemouth and his Rastafarian friends as they battle the mafia and both sides seek the upper hand in the war of the haves -vs- the have-nots. None of this adds up to an earthshaking movie experience in the typical sense. The plotting, while paper-thin, allows the viewer to experience what a typical shantytown resident goes through on a daily basis. It rightly presents the music of the times as a common thread that unites the inhabitants' focus on music as a way to temporarily allay their concerns about food, money, and shelter. And no bones about it, this is a soundtrack-driven flick, featuring many live performances by the above-mentioned musicians at the peak of their careers. Here's a snippet from a Popmatters review:

Written and directed by a first-time filmmaker, Ted Bafaloukos, the film is musical vérité, a vibrant, effortless capsule of a synthesis of music and life: musicians. The title refers to the subjects' bread and butter, "Rockers" (the current reggae, the latest sound), and the film bulges at the seams with performances, parties and a soundtrack of the cream of Island Records' Jamaican crop (Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, Inner Circle, et al.). While songs fill the heart of Rockers, Bafaloukos keeps music rooted in daily life by shooting mostly in the streets of Kingston and the hills of Montego Bay.

There you have it. Despite its ostensible (and grand) Robin Hood allusions, it's really a vehicle for the tuneage. If you have any interest at all in Jamaican music, be it Ska, Rock-Steady, classic Reggae, or even the more modern leanings and evolvings of Dancehall, this is a disc that's worth checking out. From the lively club scenes (particularly amusing is a scene where Horsemouth's friend, Dirty Harry, takes over a DJ booth) to the scene where Burning Spear sings a moving, acapella version of Jah No Dead, the culture of Jamaican music is put front and center. So, it's a must-see for Dread-Heads and those who have an adventurous taste for music and cinema. More info on the film can be found here. Please note: the preceding link contains a spoiler or two in regard to the plot of the film.

As for the quality of the DVD, it's about as good as you'd expect from a film made on the cheap in the '70s. In other words, it's A-Ok, but it ain't a demonstration disc by any means. That said, the music tracks definitely have some muscle and sound pretty good, all things considered. You can get more info of the DVD specs over at Amazon if interested. One performance-related note: you will need to use the subtitles while watching this flick. The dialogue is almost entirely in patois, and is as thick as the ganja smoke that constantly envelopes the Rastafarians featured in the film. Consequently, unless you're an islander, you're probably not going to understand what's being said without engaging the subtitles...


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