By Gregory Crofton
In the heart of Kingston, Jamaica, reggae took root above Randy’s Record Mart.
In the late 1950s, a second-hand record store owned by Vincent “Randy” Chin became a “watering hole” for musicians and songwriters. Chin had gotten his start in the jukebox business, and eventually opened a studio above the record mart.
In archival recordings produced at the studio you can hear the music develop, from ska to rock steady to the birth of reggae, according to Reshma B, a music journalist and a producer of the new”Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes.”
“Studio 17” is about going back, taking time to go back and dig through 600 archival tapes recovered from the long-shuttered studio. The tapes contain half-finished songs and outtakes made by people who became legendary musicians, including The Wailers with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Lord Creator.
Their combined treasure trove of recordings — which hopefully will be heard outside of this film soon — is an astonishing addition to the historical record of reggae. This is a true documentary.
Below is a post-screening discussion from the film festival. Simon, who is the son of Vincent Chin, and the one who took over production duties for his father at the studio, attended the screening. He answered questions about his work after seeing the film for the first time.