Feeling Rockers in Brazil

Observer senior writer

Sunday, August 26, 2018

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Rockers, the movie that defined reggae during the late 1970s, turned 40 this year. To celebrate the landmark, some of its stars performed in So Paulo, Brazil, to packed outdoor venues.

The two shows were held July 24-25 and featured drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, singer Kiddus I and deejay Big Youth — three of the stars from Rockers. They were accompanied by singer Roland Burrell, vocal group KushArt, and Lloyd Parks and We The People Band.

Both shows were organised by Gabriele Brown and Rafael Ruiz, principals of The Rockers Project, a company that covers the movie's legacy.

“We got excellent response; it was wonderful vibes. I was surprised we were so well-received,” Kiddus I told the Jamaica Observer. “It shows Rockers has done its work over the years.”

Each of the acts did four songs on the shows, as well as classic reggae tracks like Satta Masagana, Police And Thieves, Book of Rules, and Tenement Yard. The last was done by Jacob Miller, another Rockers star, who died in 1980.

Brown, who is originally from Stuttgart, Germany, said there are plans to take The Rockers Project to Europe next year. Shows are tentatively set for Germany in July with possible dates in the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, it was while Wallace and saxophonist Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall were touring West Germany with Burning Spear in 1976 that they met Greek-American film-maker Theodorus “Ted” Bafaloukos. He told them of his desire to make a movie in Jamaica and they encouraged him to do so.

Bafaloukos took up the offer with his business partner and fellow American Patrick Hulsey. Acting as director and producer, respectively, they filmed Rockers in Ocho Rios and Kingston with Wallace as the star. The movie also featured Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Robbie Shakespeare, and music producer Lawrence “Jack Ruby” Lindo.

Wallace plays a struggling musician determined to get back at the system after years of being exploited by producers. Rockers cost $500,000 to make.

Rockers premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival in late 1978 and showed at the Cannes Film Festival one year later. It was not until 1980 that the movie was released in select cinemas across the United States.

Hulsey died in 2003; Bafaloukos died in 2016.

Kiddus I, whose song Graduation in Zion is part of the Rockers soundtrack, last watched the movie two years ago. He believes it has held up.

“The soundtrack is great an' people still love the dress code. I think it's safe to say Rockers made quite a statement,” he said.

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