In the past two decades Jamaican music has lost the crossover appeal of the era of Bob Marley and roots reggae, but the rap-influenced dancehall scene, while reaching fewer people, still exemplifies the island’s social and religious contradictions. That’s the essence of this affectionate doc, which surveys current Jamaican artists from the ultra-violent ghetto portraiture of Bounty Killer to the sexually suggestive slackness of Lady Saw and Capleton’s rootsier take on dancehall, while also affirming that old- school mainstays like Bunny Wailer and Third World are still with us. The focus is on the performers, either live or in interview, which can leave us grasping for context. Moreover, the diversity of the music itself defeats any organising principle – dancehall headliner Elephant Man, for instance, lurches from gangsta provocation to a Marley cover, then asks the ladies in the front row to touch his ‘anaconda’. Diffuse, but worthwhile.
Friday October 23 2009