March 6th, 2009
Title: Word, Sound and Power
Artist: Soul Syndicate Band
Label: FOCUSED; distributed by MVD Visual
Format: DVD (5.1 surround, 60 min.)
Catalog No.: MVD4634
Release Date: 2008
Word, Sound and Power is an impressive documentary that captures the essence of Jamaican music and spirit by featuring one of Jamaica’s finest instrumental and studio groups, the Soul Syndicate Band.
Formed in 1963, the Syndicate has worked with all the great Jamaican recording artists, including Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Director Jeremiah Stein combines a mixture of performance and interviews to bring forth the talent and insight of lead guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith, drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, rhythm guitarist Tony “Valentine” Chin, and bassist George “Fully” Fullwood. The film also features vocalists Earl Zero and Tony Tuff to help round out the performances by leading the band out of the purely instrumental realm.
The film opens by introducing the Syndicate with an ensemble performance in a Kingston yard. After quickly establishing the origins of the group, the film moves to connect roots reggae with Rastafari. Stein employs Jamaican Dallas Rogers to conduct the personal interviews and provide contextual information. The presence of Rogers seems to put the artists at ease and gives the interviews creditability that might have been lost if there were conducted by the American director.
The interviews are shot riverside, in the lush interior of the Jamaican jungle, suggesting a connection to land, to the roots. Blended with acoustic performances, the interviews combine brief lessons on the evolution of Jamaican music with Rasta philosophy. What is truly remarkable about this film is that it captures the connection between the music and the culture that is felt in Jamaica. The shifting back and forth between the Kingston yard and the river locations is representative of the dichotomy of urban and rural life in Jamaica. The music itself exemplifies the connection of African musical roots and post colonial ideology. The film culminates with the performance of None Shall Escape the Justice, a Rasta anthem that expresses the rhetoric and love that a Rasta man must balance in day to day life. Following is a brief promo clip:
Word, Sound and Power was originally filmed in 1980 and has been reissued for the first time on DVD. The documentary has a 60 minute run time that will leave you singing the closing song long after the film is over.
Posted by Heather O’Sullivan
Review Genre(s): Reggae