BFI Southbank Screenings: ‘I Am The Gorgon: Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee’ & ‘Sound Business’ – LDN 14.6.14

For the London based, make sure you get down to this today at 2pm. As part of the ‘African Odysseys programme run this month, BFI Southbank are playing back-to-back two pieces of essential viewing about reggae and soundsystem culture. You’ve even got one of the director’s in attendance, all for £6.50 a ticket:

Released last year, I Am The Gorgon: Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee and the Roots of Reggae is the feature length documentary charting the story of the great Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee. A legend himself, there’s not a lot of pioneers of roots and reggae that he didn’t work with, becoming the go-to producer for that dub sound coming out of Jamaica in the sixties and seventies, further cementing his legacy when he started licensing his productions straight to London labels. Diggory Kenrick’s doco calls on not only Lee himself to tell the story, but features the likes of U Roy, Dennis Alcapone, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly and Robbie, Johnny Clarke and Johnny Holt among others.

Looking at one man’s journey and contributions to a single scene, no matter the influence is always going to be a one-sided story, but Kenrick’s done amazing job with the subject. The journey goes from the ground-up, from the streets of Kingston to dancehalls the world-over.

Experience the story of Jamaican music via the life story of this remarkable producer. This documentary film about legendary producer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee tells the story of Jamaican music through the life of one extraordinary man; from ska to rocksteady; dub to dancehall; from the backstreets of Kingston to the concert halls of the world. Lee worked with early pioneers such as Duke Reid and innovators such as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Sly and Robbie, and his association with King Tubby in the 70s gave rise to the genre known as dub. Lee’s story involves politics, arguments, gangs and guns as Jamaican music spread from the ghettos of Kingston to the furthest reaches of the globe.


Following I Am The Gorgon…will be a second documentary we came to love last year. Directed by Molly Dineen, Sound Business has developed it’s own cult following. Check out what we said about it with a few words below or read the full original write-up here:

Originally aired in 1981, Sound Business is a UK documentary focusing on Sir Coxsone and Lion Charge sound systems – a mixture of talking heads giving history, digging deeper in to doing what they do and giving us insight in to sound system culture living.

Led by Lloyd Coxsone, the Coxsone Sound system were eighteen years established in the UK at the time of shooting. Talking about it being a team and family thing, as well as their individual roles and the constant need to stay on top, drives home that sound system operation is a lifestyle choice, not a hobby. Over thirty years on and Sir Coxsone is still in the game, now with Sir Coxsone the Outernational system.

From their same block in Wandsworth we meet Lion Charge (notably the name of the new whites label that released some killer edits from Ipman & Killawatt) who are a younger system starting out, but each still with their own roles and still sprouting a less weightier dedication chat to their sound system. To be honest, not sure where these guys ended up, but the dedication at the time was more than believable.

It’s not just the the live footage of the deejay and engineer that contributes to the vibes on this; watching the sound men hunting down a tape, then creating the version from the tape to cut the dub plate from as well as building speaker boxes then loading and unloading stacks in to a truck are the most interesting parts of the tv documentary.

Narrated by the one Mikey Dread, this is critical viewing. Genuinely surprising was how in-depth the directors went and the ease and accessibility of the what they offer up. When you think about it though, when it comes to dubplate culture those that know already know, and everyone else doesn’t really care. Still, it’s nice to see them talked about and documented openly in an engaging way.

The forty-five minute doco has remained something of a frustrating point to date, doing the rounds online but with a decent non-VHS rip seemingly impossible to track down. Fortunately, today’s screening looks to give it’s admirers what they want, with a screening at Southbank.

As if that’s not enough, director Molly Dineen will be in attendance, introducing the film and no dout giving some insight in to the golden-era of reggae when this was shot.

An awesome double-feature from BFI and Southbank, big ups all involved in educating through these programs.