As more and more Black young people of Jamaican heritage are raised in the USA, Canada, and the UK, it is important for them to have an understanding of their history and culture in order to develop a strong sense of identity. Without a solid grounding, there is a risk that youth will be influenced by the negative stereotypes that are prevalent in mainstream media.
Feature films and documentaries are 2 of the most powerful vehicles for learning about the histories and cultures of people of African descent. They also promote cross-cultural understanding and provide a way for people around the world to learn about each other. The opportunity to discover new music, new artists and even musical genres with which they are not familiar make the whole process enjoyable.
Jamaican reggae music is increasingly popular with audiences of all races. Thanks to two films, one with a modern storyline and one historical, produced by Jamaican producers who lived in Canada for many years, audiences around the world are gaining more insight into Jamaican culture and history and exposure to its rich musical legacy. The films are Destiny and Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess.
Last year, Huffington Post Canada discussed the themes explored in Destiny, a Jamaican/Canadian indie film produced and directed by Jeremy Whittaker, CEO of Grasshopper Productions Ltd. The movie has gone on to sold out screenings in the USA and the UK and an explosive theatrical release in Jamaica. Jamaica's newspaper, The Gleaner, highlighted the reason for the movies' success:
"Destiny is one of those must-see films. No violence, no bloodshed, just clean, fun, wholesome entertainment."
The music is another reason for its appeal. On September 18, 2015, Grasshopper Music Entertainment released the movie's soundtrack, featuring 10 Jamaican and international artists. Destiny: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, an original compilation reggae album, is being distributed internationally by Tuff Gong International as part of its deal with Caroline Music, a division of Universal Music Group. According to Cedella Marley, CEO of the Marley Group:
"Tuff Gong is proud to be a part of another milestone in Jamaican entertainment. With this authentic Jamaican production, Jeremy is sharing a slice of Jamaican life. Destiny has ruled the local box office and will no doubt attract a global following, and we look forward to a successful partnership."
The soundtrack, executive produced by Jeremy Whittaker and produced by legendary reggae music producer Clive Hunt with Dwain 'Wiya' Campbell as co-producer, includes selections by Christopher Martin and Karian Sang who star in Destiny.
Listeners will recognize the gentle vibe of Together Tonight sung by Parisian reggae artist Bazil. Released earlier this year, the single and music video featuring clips from the film were produced by Bazil and Romain Ghezal.
If You Want It, the second single from soundtrack to be released was is produced by Clive Hunt and performed by Karian Sang, Canadian recording artist and the lead actress in Destiny. The legendary Jamaican drummer, Sly Dunbar, gives this selection its beat.
Not since the 1972 release of the cult classic The Harder They Come, produced by Perry Henzell, has there been a Jamaican motion picture soundtrack with so many original, melodic reggae songs. When The Harder They Come was released, Jamaican music had evolved from mento, ska and rock steady to reggae. This evolution has continued with the emergence of new genres such as dancehall style reggae.
Destiny: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack captures the fresh, modern sounds coming out of Jamaica with live instruments blended with vocals by a crop of new emerging artists alongside established, international reggae artists.
Performances by internationally known Jamaican artists Spice, Tifa and platinum-selling artist Busy Signal give the soundtrack a special kick. The soundtrack introduces local artists Garnet Silk Jr., Yahsha, Angele Smith, AC, and Wiya to international audiences.
The Destiny: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available for download on on iTunes, Amazon and Stream.
While African-American audiences are familiar with Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, there are other strong women of African descent who played a pivotal role in the liberation of their people. Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess, the documentary produced by Jamaican-born actor, award winning stunt performer, and producer Roy Anderson, chronicles the life and victories of Nanny, Jamaica's only female National Hero. A strong and powerful warrior, she lead her community of runaway slaves in Jamaica to victory over the British during the First Maroon War from 1720 - 1739.
Roy Anderson previously brought the story of Jamaica's Maroons to international audiences in his first documentary, Akwantu: the Journey. His new film, Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess, tells her story in an inspiring and compelling manner.
The film locations for Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess in Jamaica include the heritage site of Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains. (Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Sites). The views that the film provides of this remote area of Jamaica are breathtaking. Other locations included Kormantse, a port on Ghana's Gold Coast from which many captured Africans were shipped to the Caribbean.
The film includes interviews with Rita Marley, Jamaican sprinter and Olympian Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Dr. Verene Shepherd, Chair, Jamaica Reparations Commission. Maroon elder Isaac Bernard, a Kromanti language specialist, provided valuable information about the history, culture and language of the Maroons.
With respect to the soundtrack, music composer Rolando Gori, a Canadian ex-patriot living in New York, scored the film and brought together the music which includes a blend of reggae with traditional Maroon and African drumming.
Granny Nanny, sung by McA-Lion, a conscious rasta, is heard throughout the movie. Odinga Creary teams up with Yvette Brown and Papa Finegan on a song called Warrior. Over the closing credits, he also sings Strength of a Woman, which will soon be available on iTunes.
Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess has been enthusiastically received at test screenings in Toronto and New York. The world premiere, followed by a discussion, will take place on Monday, October 19, 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The screening is part of Remember Slavery hosted by the United Nations. The screening and discussion are a red-carpet event sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, in partnership with the UN Department of Public Information, and Action 4 Reel Flimworks. The producer, cast members and Rita Marley are among the guests who will be in attendance.
The Jamaican premiere will take place on October 23, 2015 at UWI's Mona campus.
Anne Thornley-Brown is a Jamaican-born professional actress, writer and blogger who is based in Toronto.