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Museum to showcase UK reggae history

Published:Saturday | October 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM
U Roy
Lee 'Scratch' Perry
Bunny Lee
Don Letts
Bob Marley

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

The history of reggae music in Britain is being revisited by London's Hackney Museum through a photo exhibition and two films.

'Reggae Rebels' is the title of the exhibition, which opened in September and is scheduled to close in early January. It features the work of photographer Dennis Morris, a veteran of the British pop music scene.

According to a press release, Reggae Rebels looks at the music's influence on "identity, fashion and music styles" in Britain.

Morris' photos were taken from 1970-2004 and capture some of reggae's biggest stars and the clubs they frequented.

Morris was a teenager when he met Bob Marley. The singer had just arrived for a soundcheck at the Speak Easy Club in London and allowed the youth to take photos of him, 'shots' that would later be used in cutting-edge publications like Time Out and Melody Maker.

Morris is author of Bob Marley: A Rebel Life.

Dub Echoes, a documentary by Brazilian film-maker Bruno Natal, was released in 2009. It opens at the Hackney on November 25.

Natal and his crew interviewed artistes, producers and journalists intimate with this offshoot of reggae.

Sly and Robbie, Mutabaruka and U Roy are some of the artistes featured in Dub Echoes.

Producers Bunny Lee, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Don Letts were also interviewed for the film which was shot in Brazil, Kingston, London and the United States.

Babylon is a gritty 1980 movie set in south London, a time when reggae was at the peak of its popularity in Britain. Its plot is built around Blue of the Ital Lion Sound; Blue is played by former Aswad vocalist-guitarist Brinsley Forde.

The 95-minute film, which is directed by Italian Franco Rosso, is scheduled to open December 9.

Jamaican popular music broke through in Britain during the mid-1960s.

Artistes like Millie Small and Desmond Dekker first scored with My Boy Lollipop and Israelites, respectively.

This set the tone for Double Barrell by Dave Barker and Ansel Collins in 1969 and Everything I Own by Ken Boothe in the mid-1970s.

Roots-reggae took over through Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear.

British reggae took off in the late 1970s on the popularity of bands like Aswad, Steel Pulse and Misty In Roots.