Formed by a Chinese-Jamaican couple in the early ‘60s in Kingston, Jamaica, Randy’s Records started as a used record store, then grew to house a reggae recording studio in the upstairs part of the building. Studio 17’s history as the heartbeat of a new style of music—from ska to rocksteady to reggae to dub reggae—is vividly captured in the 84-minute, 2019 film Studio 17 – The Lost Reggae Tapes, masterminded by TIDAL’s reggae editor Reshma B for BBC.
With archival photos and videos as well as compelling interviews with musicians who lived in the golden age of reggae, the tale of Randy’s Records unfolds as a triumphant enterprise as “the waterhole for Jamaican musicians” in the first days of the country’s independence from Britain in 1962, its sudden shuttering due to political and military tensions in the 70s, and a remarkable final rebirth. That takes place when the son of the owners, Clive Chin, returns to the dilapidated Studio 17 where he participated as a producer in the recording of such soon-to-be-stars as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly Dunbar, and Peter Tosh. At the abandoned Studio 17, he discovered close to 2,000 original reel-to-reel tapes of music, much of which had never been released. It was a treasure trove that Chin eventually restored and got digitized. Clive’s remembrances offer an oral history of the studio and its reggae artists before the infectious beat conquered the world’s music.
Part of the story also includes the first-time recording of an unfinished Dennis Brown song thanks to the help of former Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart and his young singing star Hollie Stephenson who overdub dueted with the star on “When You Get Right Down to It.” An enlightening film with telling stories and master musicians.
Watch the full documentary here:
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