Not long ago, I was able to go to the glorious behemoth that is the McCann building to talk to Nicolas Jack Davies about his impressive chronicle Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records, which recounts the birth of ska and reggae in Jamaica as well as the UK. In the doc, Davies intermingles interviews with musicians who were part of (or inspired by) Trojan Records along with some truly beautiful re-enactments of concerts, “sound systems,” and more. I was impressed to learn that all the re-enactments were shot over the course of 8 days. I don’t always enjoy reenactments in documentaries, but Davies does a great job making them flow into the narrative of the film.
“…recounts the birth of ska and reggae in Jamaica as well as the UK.”
Trojan Records started in Jamaica in 1968 with Duke Reid’s Trojan Sound System. Sound Systems were huge parties where early ska and reggae records were played. Thank Duke Reid and his contemporaries the next time you’re listening to someone play their favorite songs on a laptop at your neighborhood bar. With the advent of Jamaica’s independence, a lot of Jamaicans immigrated to the UK, Trojan Records filtered all of the great ska and reggae music in Jamaica to eager audiences in England.
Ska music was a big deal in the UK and united black and white listeners. Rudeboys and Skinheads surfaced everywhere in England, even before the punks came around. Originally, skinheads were working-class kids who opposed a different sect of music and fashion, the Teddy Boys. It wasn’t until later on in the ’70s with the advent of the National Front and bands like Skrewdriver that skinheads became associated with racism.
“If you’re a fan of any iteration of ska and/or reggae, you will love this film…”
If you’re a fan of any iteration of ska and/or reggae, you will love this film. Marcia Griffiths, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Don Letts, Toots Hibbert, Neville Staple, Pauline Black and so so so many more are in this film. It’s worth multiple watches to absorb all the history and the joy that these musicians experienced through ska and reggae. Of course, we have to hear about the ultimate fall of Trojan records, which is sad, but thankfully the music lives on and can be appreciated by audiences for many, many years in the future.
Nicolas Jack Davies is an incredibly resourceful documentarian. I share with Davies a love for ska and an appreciation of the surrounding culture. Music is a great unifying force, and Rudeboy explores that to great success. I highly recommend this documentary. It’s one of my favorite docs about music to come out since Dig! If you know me, that’s saying a lot. If you don’t, just take my word for it that this film is excellent.
Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records (2018) Written and Directed by Nicolas Jack Davies. Starring Andre Dwayne, Marcia Griffiths, Toots Hibbert, Matthew Jacobs-Morgan, Bunny Lee, Don Letts, Lee “Scratch” Perry.
8 out of 10 stars