A treasure trove of rescued tapes revives the golden age of reggae music and reveals the fascinating story behind oneof Jamaica’s most legendary recording studios, Randy’s Studio 17.
STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES opens a door into the creation of a musical form that changed the sound of popular music around the world and takes a hard look at the real lives of the poor musicians who created it. Located in the heart of downtown Kingston, Studio 17 was a nerve center of Jamaica’s vibrant music scene. Shot in Jamaica, London, and Hamburg, the film follows Clive Chin’s own battle to secure the rights to the Randy’s archive so that the music will be heard by future generations. We also see his emotional struggle to overcome the murder of his son Joel Chin, who was head of A&R for VP Records and worked closely with dancehall stars like Sean Paul & Beenie Man.
Widestream Films and Iambic Dream Films in association with BBC Music presents ‘STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES.’ The feature-length documentary was a hit on British TV and at select film festivals before the Coronavirus pandemic. It will have its U.S. debut starting on February 1, 2021 for Reggae Month on Qwest TV, Quincy Jones’ video-on-demand service for lovers of great music.
The film will also be available for a limited time on Tidal, the streaming service founded by hip hop mogul Jay-Z, as part of a special Reggae Month campaign on the Tidal home page starting February 1.
- Listen to David Rodigan’s BBC 1Xtra feature on STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES
CELEBRATE DENNIS BROWN’S BIRTHDAY FEBRUARY 1 2021 WITH A RARE & UNRELEASED TRACK BY THE CROWN PRINCE OF REGGAE
‘STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES’ features an unreleased track from the Studio 17 archives by Dennis Brown, the late great Crown Prince of Reggae. The legendary singer’s 64th birthday on February 1 kicks off the worldwide celebration of Reggae Month.
The song was produced by Clive Chin in the mid 1970s at Studio 17 and left unfinished and unreleased until being rescued by Clive many years later. After forty years, the internationally acclaimed musician, songwriter, and producer Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame collaborated with Clive to finish the tender love song, adding vocals by teenage singer Hollie Stephenson to make a moving duet that can be heard for the first time in the documentary.
ABOUT THE FILM:
STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES includes original interviews with iconic figures like Jimmy Cliff, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly Dunbar, Maxi Priest, Ali Campbell of UB40, King Jammy, Lord Creator, Ernest Ranglin, the late trombonist Rico Rodriguez, and the late producer Bunny Lee, who passed away in 2020 due to Covid-19. The film tells the story of the birth of reggae as it rose from humble beginnings to become a worldwide phenomenon.
The in-depth documentary tells the story of how Lord Creator fell on hard times after recording early hits for Randy’s and other producers. Years later he was homeless and destitute until the British reggae band UB40 covered one of his classic songs and changed his life forever.
“One of the finest reggae documentaries ever made”
—John Masouri, Echoes
“A magical piece of work…fascinating insight into the earliest period of the music” —David Rodigan, BBC 1Xtra
“A good slice of truth that is going to inspire other stories to be told because the truth doesn’t go away” —Pat McKay, SiriusXM
ABOUT THE STUDIO:
Located in the heart of downtown Kingston at 17 North Parade, Randy’s Records and Randy’s Studio 17 were founded by Vincent and Pat Chin, becoming a nerve center of Jamaica’s vibrant music scene. Amidst the political strife of the late 1970s, the Chin family relocated to America to start a new life. Years later, Vincent’s eldest son Clive Chin returned to salvage hundreds of precious reels that were left behind, painstakingly restoring these lost recordings by many legends of ska and reggae.
During the late 1950s Vincent “Randy” Chin was working for a jukebox company, changing out worn records all over Jamaica. Instead of throwing the used records away, Vincent had the bright idea of selling them at a reduced price. By his side from the start was his wife Pat, who had given up a career in nursing to join Vincent as he travelled around the island. Together they set up Randy’s Records, just as a spirit of excitement was starting to grip Jamaica with the onset of independence from Great Britain. In 1962, Vincent produced his first record, “Independent Jamaica” by Lord Creator, a charismatic singer of the time. The song became a huge hit, launching Vincent Chin into a lifetime of record production.
The Randy’s archive contains hundreds of reels featuring many unheard and unreleased songs by The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, The Skatalites, Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs and many more legendary stars of Jamaican music. Somehow these precious tapes survived years of neglect as well as looting, hurricane Gilbert, and intense tropical heat. The songs were produced by Vincent “Randy” Chin and his son Clive Chin at Randy’s Studio 17, which was located upstairs from the family’s bustling record store at 17 North Parade, forming Jamaica’s first fully integrated production and sales outlet.
In its prime, Studio 17 was a magnet for top Jamaican talent, including Bob Marley & the Wailers, Peter Tosh (who also worked there as a studio musician), Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Carl Malcolm, Jimmy London, The Skatalites, American soul star Johnny Nash and many more. Legendary producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry and Bunny Lee booked out Studio 17 regularly while Vincent mentored his son Clive Chin in the art of engineering and production. Clive’s sessions with Augustus Pablo yielded the historic Java Java Java LP, the first dub album in music history. But the good times would soon come to an end.
Political turmoil gripped Jamaica in the late 1970s forcing the Chin family to flee to New York, abandoning the recording studio and hundreds of session tapes in their haste. Vincent and Pat went on to establish VP Records, which became the world’s largest independent distributor of reggae music. Meanwhile in Jamaica stacks of original session tapes languished inside Studio 17, surviving violence, looting, Hurricane Gilbert, and sweltering tropical heat.
Years later, Clive Chin undertook a mission to rescue the treasure trove of original Studio 17 tapes. Inspired by the tragic death of his son Joel Chin, a VP Records employee who was murdered in a still-unsolved shooting in 2011, Clive resolved to digitize and re-master these stunning recordings from reggae’s golden age. Listening to session tapes with ace musicians bantering between takes is like stepping into a time machine, an experience that unleashes a flood of wonderful memories from Clive Chin’s years working alongside his father.
WATCH TRAILER HERE
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION:
Director: Mark James
Producer: Reshma B / Mark James
Camera: Chris Morphet
Film Editor: Paul Burgess
Executive Producers: Waël Kabbani, Iambic Dream, Jan Younghusband, BBC
Mark James: Director
Mark is an award-winning director, editor, and cinematographer. He studied fine art at Goldsmiths College and film production at the Royal College of Art Film School. He went on to direct a number of films for television including FREEZE, the controversial first film on artist Damien Hirst and the new wave of YBA’s (Young British Artists) for BBC 1. Since then Mark has filmed, directed, and edited many films for television on music and the arts including Bryan Ferry, Dave Stewart, Phil Collins. His first feature film VAMPIRE DIARY won 4 awards at the Milan International Film Festival, including Best Film. More recently, Mark directed, filmed, and edited A BIPOLAR EXPEDITION, a feature documentary for Channel 4’s True Stories, as well as 3D dance spectacular DANCE DANCE DANCE for Sky Arts that won a 3D Society International Award. Mark has several new documentary projects in development, as well as 3 feature films that he has written.
Reshma B: Producer & Reggae Journalist
Reshma B is a music journalist and filmmaker who specializes in reggae and dancehall music. Her work appears on media platforms such as BBC, Billboard, Pigeons & Planes/Complex, VIBE and Boomshots. She is also the reggae and dancehall curator at Tidal. She has conducted extensive interviews with most of the top acts in Jamaican music including Shabba Ranks, Supercat, Vybz Kartel, and Popcaan. She writes the column “Murda She Wrote” highlighting the latest dancehall releases which currently runs on Tidal Magazine accompanied by its own playlist. This Reggae Month Reshma B rolls a special feature on Tidal’s homepage to paying tribute to Jamaican music. The “Reggae Girl About Town’s” in-depth cultural knowledge and strong relationships with leading artists have made her a popular figure within the scene, she has produced music docs for TV, radio and internet as well as hosting events and on camera interviews. In her documentary ‘Jamaica Inna Real Life’ she and a camera crew followed New York–based recording artist Hood Celebrityy on her first trip home to Jamaica since she was a little girl. STUDIO 17: THE LOST REGGAE TAPES is her first feature-length project. She is currently producing an upcoming documentary on Grammy nominee Skip Marley and will host her own radio show “Murda She Wrote” on SiriusXM’s new Bob Marley Tuff Gong Radio.
Waël Kabbani: Executive Producer
Waël Kabbani, Iambic Dream Films executive creative director, provides leadership and guidance, and drives the company’s mission to engage through all forms of storytelling. He is passionate about the power of creativity and the people who make it happen. Waël is truly a global citizen, with a Syrian-Saudi background, school years in Switzerland, a decadent decade and a half in California, a vibrant life in London and a home base in Montreal. Waël passionately tells his stories through music, film, and animation, often combining all three creative mediums in one project. Waël has recently produced ‘We Are Many’ about the 2003 global anti-war protests, that has been a festival and cinema smash around the world this summer and now in the running for the Oscars.
Paul Burgess: Editor
Paul has over 25 years of experience making high quality broadcast television. After graduating in Film and Literature at Warwick University, he built his reputation as one of the U.K’s foremost documentary editors, earning awards, nominations, and critical acclaim for his work. Persuaded to bring his story-telling skills outside the cutting room he has gone on to forge a parallel career as Producer and Director, making films on a wide range of social, cultural and historical subjects for all major international broadcasters including BBC, PBS, ARTE, CBC, Discovery and National Geographic.