By Jasmin Tiggett
UK Release Date: September 30, 2011
Genre: Doc. | Duration: 96 mins | Color, English
Cast: Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, and members of UB40
Director: Menelik Shabazz
Menelik Shabazz’s The Story of Lover’s Rock explains the origins of a music made specifically for dancing in the dark. Developed in London in the late 1970s, the soulful genre of reggae called “lover’s rock” earned its popularity at house parties where young people would slow dance close together, developing a style known as “rubbing” or “scrubbing.” Every artist and fan that lived through this time seems to have escaped with a story, and Shabazz takes care to share many of them with us.
Through a blend of interviews, concert footage, archival material, and improvised sketches, the documentary becomes a crash course in the genre and its origins, as well as the hostile racial climate in which it was born. The voices of popular producers and artists including Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, and members of UB40 guide our story, separated by comedy sketches where players chat with each other or the camera, schooling us in the proper way to dance to the music.
Above all, the film is a trip down memory lane for fans of lover’s rock, and those unfamiliar with the genre or its star performers may get lost in the shuffle. Still, it’s a story worth telling, particularly as its artists were largely shut out of the mainstream music industry and received relatively little radio airplay. Shabazz revives the tale of how they created an original sound and an independent industry, and his enthusiasm for the subject is both undeniable and admirable.
The Story of Lover’s Rock enjoys a brief run at the Quad Cinema as part of the New York African Diaspora International Film Festival, which continues through December 13th. www.nyadff.org
Jasmin Tiggett is a writer, filmmaker, and film curator based in New York.
Watch the trailer
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