Here’s one more reason to love Black History Month: It coincides with Reggae Month, a global celebration of the music and culture deemed an “an intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.
In 2008, Jamaica declared February as a monthlong recognition of the genre its country created and cultivated; as well as acknowledge the birthdays of two of their legends: Dennis Brown, who’s known as the “Crown Prince of Reggae,” on February 1, and Bob Marley, the “King of Reggae,” on February 6.
The golden age of Jamaican music gets explored in the documentary, Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes. The film, which premiered on BBC last year and is now available on Qwest TV and Tidal, retraces reggae’s humble beginnings as local riddims beloved by its youth to becoming a globally recognized musical juggernaut.
Studio 17 refers to the famed record store Randy’s at 17 North Parade in downtown Kingston. Its founders Vincent “Randy” Chin and his wife, Pat Chin, turned the store into recording studio and began a musical legacy that would withstand the island’s social and political injustices, natural disasters and murder of their grandson, Joel Chin, in 2011.
The documentary was sparked by reggae journalist Reshma B who was in search of the original studio location, which had been deserted after the Chin’s fled their island home after political unrest in the 1970s. They relocated to Queens, New York in 1978 and their love of music continued. The family started VP Records, which became the world’s largest independent distributor of reggae and dancehall music. However, back in Kingston, Studio 17’s thousands of original recordings and sessions tapes were left unattended for years. Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes pays overdue respect to the ska, dub and reggae gems left behind.
Through original interviews with iconic figures such as Jimmy Cliff, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly Dunbar, Maxi Priest, Ali Campbell of UB40, King Jammy, Lord Creator, and the late producer Bunny Lee, Reshma B and co-producer/director Mark James’ reggae love letter salutes the massive contributions the Chins and their artists had on the genre.
Watch Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes on Tidal or Qwest TV.