Rock Steady music being documented


By: Dave Lindo
Photography By: Milton Raynor


The Canadian and Swiss Government joined together to co- produce a film about Jamaica's Rock Steady music which is being documented by Director, Stascha Bader from Switzerland and Robert Boulos from Canada, who is the film's Line Producer.


The project which is dubbed Get Ready to Rock Steady is a tribute to the great music form. "Rock Steady was a pivotal part of Jamaica's music from the 60's where everybody was talking about love." Robert said. "Rock Steady is a forgotten era, people remember Ska and Reggae but they forget about Rock Steady."


The idea was formulated by Stascha 2 years ago where we decided to unite all the artistes and musician involved in that music form. It was the first time they were working together in over 40 years so this is a big reunion.


The only person missing was Lyn Tait who couldn't come because of health reasons, but as a guitarist he was the one who came up with the sound of Rock Steady.


Stascha was overly excited about the project, with his eyes beaming he continued, "I fell in love with Reggae like everyone else in Switzerland in the 70's and 80's. In those days all the 'big name' artistes came to Zurich, from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Culture (and) Max Romeo. I did my PHD thesis and wrote a book on Dancehall and Reggae in 1985 called Words of Fire for the University of Zurich."


He added, "In 2006 I remembered how much I love Reggae and wondered how it all began. I came back to the roots and saw where Rock Steady was the angular point, which was clean and full of love. My dream was before they (musician / artistes) die, to get them back together and record an album and film. The original musicians and original artistes in the original studio as Tuff Gong Studio was once the Federal Studio where some of the great Rock Steady music was recorded."


Robert explained, "Jamaica do(es) not have anything documented in their archives on Rock Steady so this film and album can be used for that purpose."


Stascha and Robert have joined together some of the greatest musicians and singers that Jamaica has produced. Sly Dunbar - drums, Lloyd Parkes and Jackie Jackson – bass, Ernist Ranglin and Hux Brown - guitar, Robbie Lyn - Key board, Gladdie Anderson - Piano, Bongo Herman and Skully Simms - percussion. On the Brass section there are Glen DaCosta, David Madden, 'Deadly' Headley and Calvin Bubbles Cameron.


A live show also titled Get Ready To Rock Steady will be staged yesterday, June 25, at the National Indoor centre. The show was filmed live as part of the documentary.

Artistes participating in the project are: Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, Dawn Penn, Alton Ellis, Derrick Morgan, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles, Hopeton Lewis, the Tamlins, Stranger Cole and Uroy.


The musicians and artistes were just as excited to be a part of the project. YardFlex sat through the rehearsal for the show and the vibes was just awesome. It was like we were in 'musical heaven' watching the artistes and musician working together, reliving the good old days. It was evident that they haven;t skipped a beat after 40 years and was into their work like it was just yesterday. A high point was seeing one of Jamaica's great 'song bird' Judy Mowatt rehearsing the song Silent River and Dawn Penn doing No No No backed by those great musicians.


One of the pioneers of local music, Leroy Sibbles, as bouncy as ever spoke highly about the project. "I am excited to be a part of it, it brings back memories, it is good to be reunited if only for this project," he said.


Leroy Sibbles who is an icon in the business worked as a bass player, musical arranger and back up singer with the group Heptones on many hit songs in the early day. He worked on Dennis Browns first album, No Man Is An Island, John Holt's album, Love I Can Feel, to name a few.


Carlton Smith of the Tamlins shared feelings similar to Sibbles, "It's a good experience. There are foundation musician like Ernie Ranglin, Hux Brown, who played on several of our (Tamlins) early hit songs. We used to play for Sly and Robbie as most of our songs were produced by them on their Taxi Label. And we used to be Peter Tosh's back up singers. Sly and Robbie used to be in his band so it is like a real reunion."


The great man himself, Ernie Ranglin in his humble way said, "It is nice. I haven't seen them for over 30 years. Not seeing them for a long time, just nice, same spirit, fine musicians, we had great times in those day and it is good to relive those days."


Dawn Penn said "It is invigorating, very gratifying for what we do, thanks (to) the people who had this vision to bring it back to what it used to be. Hats off to Rita Marley and Tuff Gong also, they have been doing a great job and carrying on the work."


Engineer Errol Brown who had worked on several Rock Steady songs said he had a bitter sweet experience on the project, as he explained. "It was good seeing all these great musician but it was very sad to see them, shaky and poor. They have put in the work and paved the way for Jamaica's music and haven't been rewarded for their work. People like Coxsone Dodd and my Uncle Duke Reid gave them little or nothing. They got up to 15 pounds – 30 pounds for their work when they (Coxsone and Reid) made up to 30, 000 pounds. They should have gotten their fair reward."