DVD Review: Inna De Yard - The Soul Of Jamaica
by Gardy Stein
"In the hills above Kingston, an iconic group of veteran Jamaican Reggae musicians gathered to go back to their roots."
For all those of you who (like myself) missed the screening of this unique movie, the wait is over - Inna De Yard is now available on DVD! The cinematographic adventure by Peter Webber captures the magic behind the homonymus music releases of 2017 and 2019, introducing the lives and works of veteran artists Ken Boothe, Kiddus I, Winston McAnuff and Cedric Myton. Other important cast members are Judy Mowatt, The Viceroys, Derajah, Var and Jah9 as well as musicians Kush, Fonso, Worm, Bopee, Bubbler and Nadia Harris McAnuff.
But let's take a look at the film itself. First scene: a street fogged with a wispy morning mist, dogs barking, a man walking towards the camera, bag in hand. The same man is shown climbing a forest track in the next take, reaching a wooden hut. He is telling us about his craft, which is repairing pianos. Cuts to piles of records and surrounding hills. As we watch him tune a piano standing on the veranda of the house, a soft piano intro announces the beginning of the movie, zooming out from the veranda and fading in the words quoted above.
The next take shows the large concert hall of Le Trianon in Paris, filled to the brim with people cheering Ken Boothe on stage. For the rest of the film, the scenes switch between this live show, the house in Stony Hill, St. Andrew, and different places in and around Kingston. Not only do we witness the gathering of the initially mentioned singers and musicians at Winston's house as well as part of the acoustic recordings realized there, but we are also taken back to the roots of Reggae by Sammy the record collector. While he tells his tale, we see rare film snippets of Jamaica in the 60ies and 70ies - people on the street, in the dance or during violent encounters with the police. We are also taken into the studio with young Cedric Myton, Winston, Kiddus I and Ken Boothe, who all have started singing from an early age.
One by one, they tell us about the ups and downs of their lives, visiting places or people who are or have been important to them. Intimately interwoven with their lives is the story of their songs, which is equally emphasized. Thus, we accompany Cedric Myton on a fisherboat-trip while he talks about The Congo's hit Row, Fisherman, Row; we follow Kiddus I to the Kwame Falls to the backdrop of the beautiful If You Love Me, and we meet Ken Boothe's wife with whom he remembers the success of his cover-version of Everything I Own. We further see him roaming the streets, talking to friends and strangers alike. "Music doesn't come first for me, it's the people who come first!"
Time and again, tears well in my eyes, both because the music is so damn beautiful and because what we learn is deeply touching. Derajah, one of the younger artists involved, shows us the place where his elder sister was shot, an experience he tries to deal with in the song Tribute To My Sista, and Winston McAnuff struggles to recount the tragic murder of his son Matthew McAnuff, whose song Be Careful is also part of both the album and the tour. As if to soften the impact of this sad tale, it is directly followed by one of my favourite scenes of the movie: the installation of a merry-go-round at Winston's backyard, and the children who take it in possession.
After Judy Mowatt and Var had their turn, the film ends with scenes from the tour bus and, once again from the concert in Paris. The closing credits are screened to the sound of Ken Boothe's Let The Teardrops Fall and to the sight of the painting of a mural which was used as media footage. A little disappointing is the lack of bonus material on the DVD - it would have been an excellent opportunity to place one or two (or three) music videos there, to add some in-depth knowledge, some outtakes or comments of the director. Also, I am missing a mention of the Inna De Yard member Earl "Chinna" Smith, who not only can be seen as the founding father of the project but also resides in the original "Inna De Yard", as extolled in Jah9's song Steamers A Bubble.
With Inna De Yard - The Soul Of Jamaica, Peter Webber and his team, among them Gael Nouaille, Laurent Flahault, Laurent Baudens and Yann Legay, have created a stunning visual trip into Jamaica's original Reggae culture, using vivid angles (birdseye, eye level, close ups, over shoulder and even tracking shots) and intelligent editing (like, when the applause of the audience in Paris fades into the splattering rain in the streets of Kingston). With subtitles in German and French, the movie should be understandable also for those who are not used to Jamaican Patois. It is labeled suitable for audiences 6 and over, so gather your family round, cuddle up on the couch and enjoy this cultural trip!
Inna De Yard - The Soul Of Jamaica
Release date: 11/29/2019
“The original state of creation, just jamming in the garden.” That’s the aim of the Inna de Yard project, which brings together the legends of Jamaican reggae to re-record their hits of yesteryear. But this time they're making acoustic versions in the garden of a beautiful mansion, together with a new generation. These gray-haired icons of the reggae world—Ken Boothe, Winston McAnuff and Kiddus I among them—may not be as lithe as they once were, but that does nothing to dampen their spirits. And then there’s the stream of stories about the glory years, back when they performed alongside the likes of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
In this delightful and lively documentary, director Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring) mixes up recording sessions with scenes from the follow-up tour of Europe, and shows how gigantic reggae’s role has been in the history of Jamaica. One of the musicians sums it up perfectly: “Some countries got diamonds. Some got oil. We got reggae music.”