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Details make familiar video elements work well

Published:Wednesday | February 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer

There are elements of the video for Samory I's version of, Is It Because I'm Black (a song originally done by Syl Johnson from the USA, with Jamaica's Ken Boothe doing a superb rendition) which are familiar. However, the detailing of a video which goes for a minimalist approach, director Fernando F. Heva nestling the faces and figures he presents in pitch black.

Samory I's take on, Is It Because I'm Black, appears on his 2017 debut album, Black Gold.

On the Jamaican context, having the faces stand out from a black environment is reminiscent of Capleton's presentation at the start of his verse in the video for, It Was Written (done with Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley and Stephen Marley), although a dancing flame was superimposed on the Fireman's face. Then there is the more extended use of the approach in the visuals to Wayne Marshall's, Go Hard, on which the guests include Aidonia, Jr Gong and Bounty Killer. In that case, though, the video is presented in black and white, while in this case the faces and figures are in colour.

It is very well done, to give the overall effect of a range of emotions. For while the song's lyrics are about the pain of stigmatisation ("Wondering why my dreams never came true/Is it because I'm black?/Somebody tell me, what can I do/Something is holding me back/Is it because I'm black?"), the consecutive facial collage shows a range of human emotions that move the video beyond the trauma specific to a particular type of racial oppression. Once again, the approach of putting a number of persons in back to back clips is not new to the Jamaican music video - Kabaka Pyramid's, Well Done, but once again, the intensity of the expressions and director's choice of sequences give it a fresh intensity.

Matching the pace of the music, it takes all of one verse for the camera to zoom in on a shirtless Samory I, then there is a close-up of a well-known face, saxophonist Dean Fraser, whose horn is a significant part of the Rorystonelove Production. The visuals are a simply elegant interpretation of the song's lyrics and the slow, intense production approach, powerful in the use lighting to effectively create highlights and shadows in synergy with a powerful song.

See the video at: