Reggae In Babylon

"Reggae In Babylon" is a documentary made in 1978 about the Reggae music scene (live bands/sound systems/record labels) in the UK (AKA Babylon). It was directed by Wolfgang Buld for Berlin, Germany. Though this is definitely not the best reggae film I have seen, it does have its moments for sure.

Obviously the main thing that sets this film apart from other Reggae documentaries is that this based on UK Reggae rather than JA Reggae. The roster that shows up on here is impressive too. Jimmy Lindsay, Matumbi, Steel Pulse, Alton Ellis and lovers rockers 15, 16, 17. Theres also great scenes with sound systems and interviews with their operators, Coxsone's in this case.

For me, the high points of the film are the live performances of Steel Pulse in their early days of pre-dreadlocks, playing "Ku Klux Klan" and "Prodigal Son" in a dingy basement club. They even make "Ku Klux Klan" dubwise. Also the scene of Matumbi performing "Rock" in the studio. Dennis Bovell and the boys also get in a word about the history of Reggae and more specific, Reggae in the UK. Jimmy Lindsay is also great on this film performing covers of "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Easy" in the studio and also playing a dubwise version of "It's Not Our Wish That We Should Fight". Jimmy Lindsay is a singer I never heard of until I saw this video so I should be on the look out for more of his stuff.

Also a good scene is the Sound System scene where the sound plays King Tubbys wicked "Ethiopian Kings". Not many people dancing, but its nice to catch the early sounds in action. Some live Jah Shaka would have been great too. Too bad he was not included. Back to the live music front though, the veteran from JA, Alton Ellis shines here in all his red, green and gold glory singing "Diverse Doctrine".

The low part of the film has to be 15, 16, 17 whose voices just dont live up to what ive heard about them. They do a live cover of "Feel Like Jumping" and its just not doing anything for me. And during the interviews portion, they come off as immature amatuers (though their band name is the same as their ages so that might tell you why). But then, when asked what reggae music is all about, their manager steps up and he says "Reggae music is about Rastafari, and its about herb...(long pause while hes in deep though), and its about Rastafari....herb...its about herb and Rastafari." Anyways, he comes off sounding ridiculous and it woulda been better if the teen girls would have answered for themselves.

All in all though, the film is a fun watch. Look out for Errol Dunkley offering his views on UK Reggae while riding on a train. This is worth checking out if you are a fan of the early years of UK Reggae.

Back To The Video Reviews:
Ive Got To Go Back Home: