‘Bongo Man’: Superlative documentary on Jimmy Cliff

Some of the bloodiest violence in Jamaica’s history took place in the lead-up to the country’s 1980 elections. The battle for political leadership between socialist Prime Minister Michael Manley’s Peoples National Party and Edward Seaga’s Jamaican Labour Party, brought the country to the verge of civil war. The conflict started in 1976, and arose out of the PNP’s plan to form closer links with Cuba. The JLP wanted to bind Jamaica closer to the USA and a free market. Both parties used gangs (posses) to enforce their will within Kingston - Seaga accessing weapons via America. This violence culminated in the 1980 elections that left 800 Jamaicans dead, as Seaga was elected Prime MInister.

It was against this background, the documentary Bongo Man was filmed. Bongo Man told the story of Jimmy Cliff, as he traveled across Jamaica to Kingston, in an attempt to unite the country through the power of Reggae.

Cliff’s philosophy was simple: ‘Politics divide, Music unites’. The legendary Cliff is a fascinating character and this is an exceptional and engrossing documentary, containing excellent concert footage and some of Cliff’s best songs.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Horny marionette mimics Jamaican ‘daggering’ dance craze
10:27 am



Well, at least I think this is ‘daggering.’ Things get pretty hot and heavy between the host of the TV show and the marionette around the 1:30 mark. Enjoy!

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The dance craze that can break your dick

(via BuzzFeed)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Superb documentary series: ‘Reggae - The History of Jamaican Music’

If you love Reggae, if you love music, then you’ll love this excellent 3-part documentary - Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music. Originally shown on the BBC in 2002, parts of this documentary have been on YouTube over the years, but now some kind soul has uploaded the whole series for our delight. How wonderful. Enjoy.

Parts 2 & 3, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Nobody Canna Cross It’: Forget Auto-tune, Jamaica’s DJ Powa riddim-izes the news

If you’re looking for some news-video manipulation that’s funkier than the the Gregory Brothers’ oft-annoying high-register hip-pop treatments, you’re in luck. Out of Kingston, Jamaica’s University of Technology comes marketing student Kevin-Sean Hamilton, who as DJ Powa created the tune and video for “Nobody Canna Cross It (Di Bus Can Swim)”, the most viral video to come out of that country.

Cut from a TVJ report on flooding from the Yallahs River in eastern Jamaica’s St. Thomas parish, “Nobody Canna Cross It” spotlights the declarations of river worker Clifton Brown, who Powa’s made into a folk hero with a sick backing track and some deft video editing. It’s a perfect example of the unique way that Jamaicans find humor in bad news—or as they say in patois, “tek serious mek laugh.”

Of course, both Brown and the song  have their own Facebook pages, and thankfully, Kingston-based videographer Simon “Sno” Thompson (a.k.a. Yosef Imagination) is looking to set up a fundraiser to help build that bridge for the people of St. Thomas.

After the jump: DJ Powa’s take on last year’s deadly unrest in Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
NSFW Caribbean sleaze: Jamaican director takes on The Weeknd’s ‘Wicked Games’

The elusive The Weeknd…
This spring has seen 20-year-old Toronto-based R&B singer Abel Tesfaye—who does business as The Weeknd—zoom suddenly across the radar screen of the alt-music blogosphere and into the starry-eyed attention of pop star Drake and still-boring institution Rolling Stone.

And as if you need further proof of the irrelevance of the music industry, he’s done it as an unsigned artist on the strength of House of Balloons, a free downloadable mixtape of his tunes.

The hype surrounding Tesfaye springs from a couple of factors. One is the anxiously defiant swagitude in his smooth, loping, MDMA-tinged electro-soul sound. The other is the guy’s tantalizingly un-R&B low visual profile, which has resulted in the dissemination of a handful of mostly black-and-white photos of the handsome cat.

Tesfaye’s relative anonymity has also resulted in his fans producing some video interpretations of his tunes. Most of these have gone for a pretty literal black-&-white noir-city-apartment setting & narrative.

But Jamaican indie filmmaker Storm Saulter—director of the feature Better Mus’ Come and curator of the New Caribbean Cinema series—sets his disturbingly sunshine-soaked take on The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games” off the waters of his home island’s coastal parish of Portland.

After the jump: a more typical, though well-crafted, take on “What You Need”…

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American government lying! Jamaican martial arts superstar Konfu Dread got Bin Laden

In another twist on the apparent death of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden, it turns out that US Special Forces were pretty much helpless to find the world’s most wanted terrorist.

It took one of Jamaica’s most heroic and physically capable dreads, Konfu Dread, to use his “so excellent” kung-fu powers—which he deems “amongst the greatest”—to take down the man who eluded so many leaders and armed forces. 

After the jump: all four ass-kicking episodes of the Konfu Dread saga so far!

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Martial arts madness: Konfu Dread takes on Jamaica’s skin-bleaching trend

In a genius move that combines martial arts spoof with his country’s long tradition of satirical theatre, Jamaican video man Simon “Sno” Thompson (a.k.a. Yosef Imagination) has dropped a third episode of the hilarious Konfu Dread series of short videos.

This one goes after the sad and dangerous skin-lightening trend that’s affected developing cities worldwide, from Mumbai to Lagos to Havana. Rooted in a nefarious twining of racial politics, latent colonial mentality and economic disadvantage, skin-lightening’s gone especially harsh in Kingston JA, which has seen wide use of a range of pills and creams with ingredients like mercurous chloride and hydroquinone (see the second video after the jump). Some also use Blue Power brand laundry soap—known as “cake soap”—in the folkloric belief that it lightens the skin, as well as keeping it cool in the sun.

Last fall, dancehall reggae superstar Vybz Kartel, ironically nicknamed “Di Teacha,” propogated the myth by releasing his tune “Cake Soap.” Its chorus—in which Kartel claims his skin “cool like mi wash mi face wit di cake soap”—caused enough controversy to motivate Kartel to admit that he does indeed lighten his skin:

In classic dancehall fashion, fellow star Kiprich took the tune’s rhythm and recorded an anti-lightening answer tune, which features a Jamaican mum ridiculing the craze and a chorus that notes: “Ya can’t get brown, ya coulda buy every cake soap inna town…”

Enter Konfu Dread. As previously featured on Dangerous Minds, Thompson’s production polished the natty martial artist’s street-level vibes in episode two. But for this edition, he takes it back to Kingston’s roads, as the Cake Soap crew goes after the Dread for using their treasured product for its original purpose—washing clothes.

After the jump: a Current TV segment about the serious health problems of skin-bleaching on top of the cultural concerns…

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Dreadlock drive: Unexpected live performance in Jamaican taxi
11:25 am



Here’s an impromptu performance by an MC/taxi driver in Negril, Jamaica. He’s got a boss sound system in his ride, eh?

Something tells me that the tourists who shot this video knew where to find the dank collie weed by journey’s end…

(via Arboath)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
BBC4’s Reggae Britannia documentary liberated

Somebody’s finally liberated Reggae Britannia, BBC4’s excellent—though by no means not exhaustive—documentary on the origins, growth and influence of British reggae from the ‘60s to the present. Reggae Britannia takes you from the scene’s ska beginnings in the hands of the children of the country’s first post-war wave of Carribean immigrants (known as the Windrush generation), through to the emergence of Bob Marley, the first Brixton riots, the UK sound system phenomenon, the Two-Tone era, reggae’s merging with punk and appropriation by pop, and more. Reggae Britannia is definitely worth a look.

Here’s the trailer…click on any of the title links or graphic above to check the full thing. And please, watch instead of embed so we can hold off our friends at the Beeb from bringing it down for at least a short while.

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Cabbie Chronicles: The “Steamboat Willie” of Jamaican animation?

Jamaica has finally distinguished itself a bit in the global animation community. It’s easy to see why JA animators Allison and Anieph Latchman’s five-minute Cabbie Chronicles: Drive Thru Drama short won the Best Caribbean Animation Award at this year’s Animae Caribe Animation and New Media Festival. It’s some straight-up homegrown Kingston street satire.

Don’t get it twisted—Jamaicans have been doing animation for a minute now—for example, Coretta Singer’s fantastical 3-D work has been shown out in the global animation circuit for a couple of years now. And folks can point to the cutting-edge Ninjamaica, but that was a Canadian production. Cabbie Chronicles is straight from yard, and hopefully one of a long-running series that sets the tone for an era of great ‘toons from the island.

After the jump: check an interview with the screwfaced Cabbie himself…

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David Rodigan: reggae’s unlikely veteran soldier

It was all over for British pre-teen David Rodigan in 1962 when he saw ska crooner Millie Smalls sing the Cadillacs’ classic “My Boy Lollipop” on Ready, Steady, Go! He was in complete and utter love with Jamaican music and would collect and spin as many great reggae records as he could in a lifetime.

Over the next 48 years, Rodigan went from DJing school dances to legendary show slots on Radio London, Capital Radio, and Kiss FM, humbly championing reggae throughout the UK and getting royal respect with every visit to Jamaica. Most famously, he’s made his name as a champion in reggae sound clashes. His dapper fashion sense, professional demeanor, and historian’s aura at clashes* worldwide have made him known variously to reggae fans as “the rude gentlemen,” “the James Bond of sound,” or simply “Fadda” (father).

Below you’ll find Rodi in action at the UK Cup sound clash a couple of years ago, playing the role of selector as his assistant operators play the actual dubplates. His mastery at hyping tunes is evident…but first, for the uninitiated…

A primer on sound clash:

In the reggae world, sound clashes are events in which two to five “sound systems” or “sounds” (DJ teams) battle each other by playing tunes that garner the most audience approval.
Audiences respond best to dubplate specials—popular tunes commissioned by a sound and custom re-recorded by the original singer so that he or she can name and praise that sound. These one-of-a-kind tunes can be expensive, so the more dubplates that any sound can play at a clash, the more dedicated they’re perceived to be, and the more crowd response they get.
In regular reggae dances, when a regular record gets enough crowd roar, the DJ stops and rewinds the record, lifts the needle, and plays it again. In a clash, a dubplate gets a rewind and then usually it’s on to the next tune at a frenzied pace.

After the jump: unearthed new footage of Rodigan spinning a hectic dance in 1985 at legendary producer/sound man King Jammy’s yard on St. Lucia Road in the Waterhouse district of Kingston, Jamaica…

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Jamaican Kung-Fu Street Videos: Ridiculous & Sublime

The fact that Jamaicans are posting up hilarious little tributes to kung fu film online should come as no surprise. As in most countries, Jamaica always had its share of young men enthralled by martial arts cinema, which crested in terms of both prolificacy and popularity during the mid-’60s, soon after the rugged island nation became independent. Reggae producers like Lee Perry, Keith Hudson, Augustus Pablo, and Prince Jammy folded martial arts influence into their music, sometimes in the lyrics, and in other instances by simply titling their dubs “Exit The Dragon” or “Shaolin Temple.”

The global digi-video age now opens up possibilities for Jamaica to explode the kung-fu spoof genre. Below you’ll find the possible first bamboo shoots, starting with Prezzi909’s footage from November of some brilliantly awkward kung-fu kombat street theatre, replete with the sound of cackling and screaming onlookers. But wait til a pro gets a hold of the concept…

After the jump: watch the kung-fu kraze refined with actual scripting and wicked effects!

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New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ is actually an early-century Jamaican folk tune
03:19 pm


New Order
Jolly Boys

Don’t test the Jolly Boys: l-r Derrick “Johnny” Henry, Albert Minott, Joseph “Powder” Bennett 

Bernard & boys, they’ve got yr techno right here. Gravelly-voiced Jamaican singer Albert Minott and his majority-septuagenarian group the Jolly Boys have eaten rock ‘n’ roll and new wave for lunch.

For over 55 years, the Jolly Boys have played a style of music called mento, which—much like Trinidadian calypso—dates back to the late-19th century, before ska, reggae and dancehall became Jamaica’s predominant styles. As with most things Jamaican, mento is simultaneously soulful, sweet and rugged.

Minott and his crew—including original members Joseph “Powder” Bennett on maracas, Derrick “Johnny” Henry on marumba box, Allan Swymmer on percussion, and Egbert Watson on banjo—have just released an album of covers called Great Expectations, produced by Jon Baker and Dale Virgo.

Tracks include versions of Iggy Pop’s “Passengers” and “Nightclubbing”, the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can Always Get What You Want.”

After the jump: the Boys’ take on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”…

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Jools in Jamaica: Lost early-‘80s BBC reggae documentary hosted by founder of Squeeze

Fresh out of his tenure with new wave stars Squeeze, 25-year-old musician Jools Holland had launched his career as a TV presenter on the BBC channel 4 show The Tube. Assigned to cover Jamaica’s music scene circa 1984, the confident Holland strode right in to Kingston and made it happen.

Expertly directed by Geoff Wonfor, Jools’s special features footage of rising stars Mutabaruka, Dennis Brown, Black Uhuru and the Wailing Souls, along with spotlights on legendary riddim section Sly & Robbie and maniac producer Lee “Scratch” Perry (who claims he “comes from the trees”).

Not satisfied with the established stars, Wonfor and Holland prove their cred by including a gritty dancehall sequence with star microphone men Yellowman, Billy Boyo, Massive Dread and Lee van Cleef. They all do well until the on-fire Eek a Mouse suddenly hits the stage in pancho and sombrero and turns the place out.

Bookended by his intro while swimming fully dressed through a hotel pool and a beautiful finale shoot in heaviest Trenchtown for his big-band/ska tune “Black Beauty,” Jools in Jamaica is a remarkably bright document of an island in its deepest post-independence economic and political depths.

After the jump, catch the rest of the doc…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Reggae in Mourning: R.I.P. Sugar Minott

Heartbreaking news has come out of the death at 54 yesterday of the well-loved reggae singer, songwriter, producer and promoter Lincoln Barrington “Sugar” Minott. Born and raised in the ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica, Minott spent his teen years in the city’s sound system scene and recording for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s legendary Studio One label. The albums he released at this time, like Live Loving, Ghetto-ology and Roots Lovers—along with singles like “Herbman Hustling” and “Rub a Dub Sound Style”—laid the groundwork for the gritty, soulful dancehall sound that reggae would work into for the next 20 years.

Minott was best known for breaking with Jamaica’s soul-singer tradition, which saw many crooners brandishing a refined style that aped American artists. Sugar was sweet, but not slick. Minott would eventually leave Studio One to start his Black Roots label and Youthman Promotion sound system in order to help out young singers also coming out in Kingston’s ghettos. He’s responsible for early recording or performances of legends like Ranking Joe, Barry Brown, Tenor Saw, Little John, Tony Tuff, Barrington Levy, Horace Andy, Nitty Gritty, Junior Reid, Yami Bolo, Daddy Freddy and Garnett Silk.

You’ll see evidence of his popularity below, as Minott can’t get through his first tune at his first Reggae Sunsplash in 1983 without the crowd demanding he pull up and bring it again.

But you got the best of Sugar in his element, singing with the youths in the dancehall—or in this case, Maxfield Park in Kingston, where his Youthman Promotions sound regularly performed:

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
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