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‘Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes’ for Nashville Film Fest

Published:Thursday | October 3, 2019 | 12:27 AM
In this January 7, 1977 photo, Randy Chin (right) poses for a photo alongside an unidentified assistant in his record shop.
In this January 7, 1977 photo, Randy Chin (right) poses for a photo alongside an unidentified assistant in his record shop.

The feature documentary Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes, which tells the story of the birth of reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica, and of one man’s quest to rescue a treasure trove of tapes that were abandoned in 1977 , will premiere at Nashville Film Festival’s 50th anniversary on October 8 9. It will have its broadcast debut on BBC Four television in the UK on October 11.

Narrated by Levi Roots, the film includes interviews with many reggae greats, including Jimmy Cliff, Lee “Scratch’ Perry, Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Maxi Priest, Ali Campbell of UB40, King Jammy, Bunny Lee, Lord Creator, the late Rico Rodriguez, and the re-recording of a Dennis Brown classic with British rock musician Dave Stewart.

The website for the festival notes that “ Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes tells the compelling story of the Chins, the Chinese Jamaican family behind Studio 17, the legendary recording studio above the Randy’s record store, also founded by the Chins in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. Studio 17 was at the heart of the music revolution that began after Jamaica’s independence in 1962. But dramatically, during the political turmoil of the late 1970’s, the Chin family fled to New York and the studio was abandoned. Forty years later, a treasure trove of original studio tapes has been salvaged – revealing unique and stunning recordings from the ‘golden age’ of reggae, many of which were unreleased and have never been heard before. As the tapes are played, they give rise to a myriad of wonderful stories and in a highly poignant conclusion, the teenage voice of the late Dennis Brown is beautifully remixed with the vocals of a rising teenage star, Hollie Stephenson, all magically orchestrated by producer and one time Eurythmics star, Dave Stewart.”

The tapes, which were produced by Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin, were rescued by his son, legendary music producer Clive Chin. Only after Clive’s son, Joel (a celebrated A&R man and music producer in his own right), was murdered did Clive plunge into the digitising process as a way of honouring his son’s life and their shared love for music.