“This film is the ultimate reference about reggae. A pure gem.”
One great thing about a crucial music documentary is its ability to crack open a portal to an entire universe while offering a road map for exploring it. Released in 2006, Made in Jamaica does that with dancehall music, devoting two unflinching hours to the sound of 1980s Kingston. Featuring revelatory footage of dancehall icons including Lady Saw, Elephant Man, Capleton, and Bounty Killer, it’s not only a riveting film, it’s a virtual buyer’s guide.
As with most musical movements of the era, synthesizers and other electronic accoutrements upended the sound of Jamaica, transforming the 1970s roots reggae and lovers rock sounds by infusing them with rhythm boxes, pew-pew synth stabs, and various other shock-of-the-new textures. Dancehall was the sound of young Jamaica claiming reggae music as their own by pumping it full of adrenaline and circuitry.
As observed in release notes for Made in Jamaica, which was directed by Jérôme Laperrousaz, “at its origin, the Dance Hall concept is heavily influenced by religious overtones. Like rap music, Dance Hall’s message is powerful and straightforward, with lyrics about sex, violence, and social issues, including much on women’s rights.”