Rockers – Free Flowing Through Kingston

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In 1978, director Theodore Bafaloukos pulled off an incredible feat – he made a movie so unpretentious that it’s easy to forget you’re even watching a scripted feature at all. Bafaloukos, who was a Greek freelance photographer, had set out to make a documentary about the burgeoning reggae scene he first discovered in 1975 when Island records sent him to Jamaica on assignment. Yet, his resulting film Rockers doesn’t so much document as it does flow.

The cast is composed almost entirely of local musicians playing exaggerated versions of themselves, the plot is forgettable, and the film was clearly produced by a crew that had enjoyed a bit too much of Jamaica’s local cash crop, but Rockers is nonetheless a perfect time capsule of the uninhibited infancy of reggae. The scenes meld together as the main character, drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace (played by himself of course) takes us through the lively streets of the Kingston ghetto and beyond.

At the time, the Kingston scene was largely separated from the corporate music industry (barring Bob Marley of course), but they were still aware of the world at large, which creates this interesting subculture in which the characters laze across the screen speaking Jamaican Patois, while also wearing U.S. military surplus gear. As the characters crisscross through the shanty-filled streets, the painted buildings and lush jungles create a vibrant setting that almost pulses along with the steady beat of the film’s reggae score. In the end the film isn’t so much about anything in particular as it is about capturing the cultural mishmash that was Jamaican reggae in its loose early years.

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Horsemouth in shirtless overalls

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Matching Adidas tracksuits long before Wes Anderson did it in The Royal Tenenbaums

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A patchwork shirt that’s straight out of the Abercrombie catalog.

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Ghurka shorts on an unfortunate tourist. Nice fit from his ladyfriend though.

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A Dick Tracy Villian in Kingston

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Surplus accents

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The starter kit for a Jamaican criminal – Gold rings, silk shirts, and a copy of Playboy on the dash.

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The rare sleeveless V-neck sweatershirt

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Grills

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More track jackets

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Elbow reinforcement on Horsemouth’s field jacket

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Casual club attire

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8 comments
  1. Leslie dilworth said:

    Amazing. How do you come up with such interesting perspectives?

  2. I FREAKIN Love this movie. Goes into my all time favorite films. It embodies the rocksteady and roots movement circa the mid 1970s and also confronts the the popular theme that “Babylon cannot prevail!” An all star cast indeed. Rest in peace Gregory Isaacs and the one Jacob Miller. Iconic visionary that Mr. Bafaloukos, an incredible feat indeed!

  3. Reblogged this on The Moments of a Blackqueen and commented:
    I FREAKIN love this movie. Goes into my all time favorite films. It embodies the rocksteady and roots movement circa the mid 1970s and also confronts the the popular theme that “Babylon cannot prevail!” An all star cast indeed. Rest in peace Gregory Isaacs and the one Jacob Miller. Iconic visionary that Mr. Bafaloukos, an incredible feat indeed!

  4. Methinks I and I will check this out tonight. I love this film.

  5. rugratsworld said:

    This post was super dope, I like how you were able to use an old school film on the reggae music scene from the 70s and describe the different styles from that time by using snapshots from the film. The movie is always a favourite of mine

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