A documentary by director Menelik Shabazz called The Story Of Lover’s Rock, received a limited release in a handful of London cinemas. But it’s popularity took cinema’s by surprise as tickets sold out in advance and the screenings were extended.
The film tells the story of an era and a music that defined a generation in the late 70s and 80s. Lovers Rock is romantic reggae that was uniquely British. The sound developed against a backdrop of riots, racial tension and sound systems. It spread from a small UK scene to become a global brand through the likes of Maxi Priest and UB40.
Though the music industry of the time didn’t take it particularly seriously, this down-tempo reggae sub-genre was hugely significant, both musically and socially.
Growing up in the in the 70s and early 80s, I can tell you first hand that times were hard. Not financially, as now but emotionally we struggled with the knowledge that whether we were British born or not, we were not welcome here.
Back then it wasn’t indirect racism it was direct and full on. Lovers Rock provided the soundtrack for me and thousands of young black people.
Singers such as Carroll Thompson, Janet Kay and Sandra Cross emerged as the stars of lovers rock, but its impact spread far wider.
The most significant thing about lovers rock is that it is a part of reggae that is uniquely British – and one in which black women hold the dominant share.
Menelik Shabazz, says: “Lovers rock ran counterpoint to the roots scene, which had a very male energy.
“But here was a kind of reggae with a very strong female element – it was kind of the first girl power movement.
“It was about love and feelings, and what people were experiencing in their relationships, so it represented the other side of the coin.
“Reggae has always had two sides – the political side and the love side – and women basically took ownership of the lovers strand.
“It was really a female response to what was going on out on the streets.”
It was also the first kind of music ever to speak directly to a new generation of black British women.
Unlike our parents – the Windrush generation – most young black Londoners in the mid-70s had either been born in the UK or had arrived as little kids.
Our connection to our parents’ homeland was distant and often intangible, while our sense of belonging in Britain was tested by racist torment.
Lovers rock gave us a cultural product that was ours, and which helped to shape our identities through difficult times.
Visit www.loversrockthefilm.com screenings and more details.