Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes

Feature Doc
2019 / 1 ep x 90 mins
Watch Screener
Production Company: iHeart Films
Genre: Feature Doc
Languages: English
Primary Broadcaster: BBC

Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes tells the compelling story of the Chin’s - The Chinese Jamaican family behind “Studio 17”. Located in downtown Kingston, Studio 17 became a legendary recording studio right at the heart of the music revolution that began after Jamaica's independence from Great Britain in 1962.

In the late 1950’s Vincent Chin was working for a jukebox company, changing out worn records all over Jamaica. The used records were usually thrown away, but Vincent had the bright idea to sell them at a reduced price. At his side from the start was Pat Chin, who had given up nursing to join Vincent as he travelled around the island. Together they set up “Randy’s Records”. In 1962 Vincent produced his first record, “Independent Jamaica” with Lord Creator a popular and charismatic singer of the time. “Independent Jamaica” became a huge hit and launched Vincent into record production.

Jamaica’s music revolution had begun, and “Ska” was born. Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop” had became a global hit. With booming record sales and the success of “Independent Jamaica” behind them, the Chins went on to build a studio above “Randys” known as “Studio 17”. They had created a fully integrated production and sales outlet.

In its prime, artists who recorded at Studio 17 included Bob Marley & the Wailers, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Alton Ellis, Carl Malcolm, Ken Boothe, Jimmy London, The Skatalites, Lord Creator and many more. But dramatically, political turmoil in the late 1970’s forced the Chin family to flee Jamaica for New York and the recordings were abandoned. Vincent and Pat established VP Records (named after the initials of their first names). VP is now the world’s largest independent distributor of reggae music.

Forty years on, a treasure trove of original Studio 17 tapes have been salvaged to reveal unique and stunning recordings from the ‘golden age’ of reggae, many of which were unreleased and some never heard before. As the tapes are played they give rise to a myriad of wonderful stories told by Clive Chin, Vincent’s son and protégé. In a highly poignant conclusion the teenage voice of the late Dennis Brown is beautifully re-mixed with the vocals of a rising teenage star, Hollie Stephenson, all magically orchestrated by producer and one time Eurythmics star, Dave Stewart.

Shot in Jamaica, New York, Hamburg and London the film includes interviews with Jimmy Cliff, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Dave Stewart, Sly Dunbar, Ali Campbell, Ernest Ranglin, Carl Malcolm, Lord Creator, Bunny Lee, King Jammy, Jimmy London, Lester Sterling, Rico Rodriguez, Clive Chin, Pat Chin, Maxi Priest, Lester Sterling and many more.

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