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RSG Performance Group

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Jimmy Cliff - Music Maker

But where did it come from? A good starting point is Perry Henzell's iconic 1972 Jamaican movie The Harder They Come. Arguably, this fast-moving "rocksteady" cowboy caper provided the first meaningful cinema-going experience for Caribbean immigrants and their UK-born offspring, because it gave them a chance to see something of their culture on screen. Britons of African descent may point to the great Senegalese film-maker Sembene Ousmane as their talisman but his oeuvre has always been strictly art-house. The point about The Harder They Come is that it earned its popular-cultural resonance through its celebration of reggae, Jamaica's indigenous music and prime cultural export. The film's star was Jimmy Cliff, a man possibly cooler than Clint Eastwood (he's definitely a better singer). But Cliff was black Kingston, not black London - his story was a "back-home" narrative. Horace Ové tackled that very problem of identity head-on in Pressure (1975). A number of films - such as 1959's Sapphire (1959) A Taste of Honey (1961) and Leo the Last (1969) - had brought the troubled existence of black immigrants in Britain to the big screen, but Pressure showed that blacks were British.

Jimmy Cliff - Music Maker




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