Randy’s wasn’t a place you wanted to visit. Instead, it was a place where everyone could have their say.
Directed by Mark James, Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes chronicles the journey of Clive Chin, a man determined to rescue a long-lost treasure trove of reggae from oblivion. Having opened the doors on Randy’s, a record store in Kingston, Jamaica, the Chin family inspired countless musicians to record and distribute their music, giving rise to the music we now know as reggae.
Focusing its lens on the impact of Randy’s recording studio in Kingston, Jamaica, Studio 17 chronicles the birth of a sound which gave voice to a nation during a turbulent era. Similar to the environments of Motown or Staxx, Randy’s was so much more than a record store. By emphasizing the impact that this location had on the community, James also highlights the incredible legacy that it has had on the entire culture. For instance, Studio 17 reveals that Randy’s was more than just a record store or a recording studio. It was a place of congregation and community. Because of its location and open doors to all who enter, Randy’s became a space where anyone could make their music and feel supported. (In fact, Randy’s even offered the opportunity to artists to have their music sold if recorded in their studio, providing an instant outlet for these undiscovered artists.)
Of course, the real star of Studio 17 is the music itself. Including many songs which have never been released from iconic artists such as this Peter Tosh, Carl Malcolm and many more, James understands that the music is what best tells the story and allows it to speak for itself. In this way, Studio 17 does a wonderful job of highlighting the impact that this sort of space created, especially in a political environment. With each beat and tempo, one can actually track the changes in style and substance to the music as it connects to the political upheaval taking place around them. As such, the legacy of Randy’s extends far beyond a few hot tracks. Studio 17 atop Randy’s Records was a place of hope and empowerment. Whether it’s changing attitudes towards Jamaican independence or the impact of Hollywood, reggae gave voice to the people during a time of revolution.
It’s also worth noting that, although it focusses on the music, Studio 17 is also very much the story of one family and the legacy that they have left behind. Through the use of their facility, the Chin family helped give voice to a generation of musicians and music lovers. Feeling that it was his responsibility to recover the tapes in honour of his fallen son, Clive Chin may have restored a piece of his family’s story, but he has also done more than rescue some valuable tracks.
He’s recovered part of history. And a piece of the nation’s soul.
With style and substance, Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes is as much an important documentation of history as the music itself. Using his camera as an eye into the past, James weaves a story that details the incredible impact that music can have on culture and the world. By opening its doors to the masses, Randy’s allowed anyone who was passionate about speaking their voice to have the opportunity to do so.
Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes is touring theatres across Canada now.