If you are a ska or reggae aficionado “Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes” is a mandatory film and for the rest of us interested in the history of music it is almost as compelling. And if you a history buff the documentary is in many ways a history of Jamaica from the 1960’s to the present day.
Randy “Vincent” Chin and his wife Pat started Randy’s Records in the Parade District of Kingston Jamaica in the late 1950’s. A recording studio, Studio 17 was then added on the second floor. Just about anyone involved in Jamaica with ska and reggae recorded at Studio 17. They could record, take a break and head downstairs and be submerged in yet more music. His son Clive eventually took over Vincent’s recording skills and responsibilities.
As a viewer you’ll luxuriate in archival film, music and photographs of the many artists that passed through Studio 17 including Jimmy Cliff, Lord Creator, Pete Tosh and Bob Marley. After awhile the many artists and their music becomes a delightful blur. But Jamaican independence from Britain in 1962 never really panned out to the greater glory of Jamaica and instead political violence exploded starting in mid 1970 with riots and gun battles in the street. Peter Tosh is murdered. The situation deteriorated so badly the Chins and many others fled Jamaica in 1978. The Chins emigrated to New York City to Jamaica New York near Kennedy Airport. VP Records named after Vincent and Pat was established but Americans knew little of reggae other than Bob Marley. VP became the largest global distributor of reggae and dance hall music.
The Chins left behind countless tapes of artists recording at Studio 17. Hurricane Gilbert struck the island in 1988. Clive returned to Jamaica in the mid 90’s and despite looting and hurricane damage the tapes were safely stored and brought back to New York where they were archived and digitalized.
Vincent’s son Joel returned to Jamaica and unfortunately was murdered by a lone gunman in 2011 which spurred on Vincent to revive and bring the “lost tapes” to the world’s attention. So enjoy the music and history and there is a treasure trove of this in the documentary.
The documentary will be shown in some Canadian theatres and also in Spain and the United Kingdom starting August 10th and it includes an August 15th screening at Toronto Hot Docs Cinema.
Directed by Mark James.
RKS Film Rating 91/100.