Reggae In Babylon – DVD Review

August 5, 2009

Reggae In BabylonThis 1978 film directed by Wolfgang Buld (Punk In London, Punk In England) documents the rise of British reggae music that coincided with the late 1970's punk explosion. The music, which is provided by groups like Steel Pulse and Jimmy Lindsay, is the center core of this movie and this footage is a mix of studio sessions, rehearsals, and live performances. Between these musical performances members of the bands, studio producers, and DJ's/ Selecters are interviewed. As anyone even somewhat familiar with the genre would predict subject matters include racial tension, Rastafarianism, smoking weed,difficulties dealing with the mainstream music industry, and the cultural ramifications of playing a Jamaican born style of music in Britain.

Beyond the music, the most interesting aspects of Reggae In a Babylon are the political subtexts which run throughout the movie. Part of the significance of reggae music being played in the late 1970's England was that it was in direct contradiction and opposition to the ideals of Thatcherism and the racially motivated messages of the National Front Party. In almost every band's rehearsal space in the film there are posters comparing the National Front to the Nazi Party, and while at one time it is commented that "There is no politics in reggae," it's hard to ignore the lyrics to a song like Steel Pulse's "Kukluxklan."

Reggae In a Babylon is important in that it documents a musical and cultural movement, that within its context was revolutionary and significant. The fact that it was filmed entirely within the time period that it deals with allows for the content to be raw and fresh and also avoids the issue of historical reinvention and re-imagining.

Get it here: Reggae In A Babylon