Caribbean sounds and Pathé reels are sign­posts of soul

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Jim Car­roll on mu­sic

As we know only too well from 800 years-plus of Ir­ish his­tory, colo­nial­ism has pro­duced many strange and un­ex­pected side-ef­fects. The in­flu­ence of its Caribbean colonies on Bri­tish cul­ture and so­ci­ety is a long-run­ning and never-end­ing source of fas­ci­na­tion.

From the an­nual Not­ting Hill car­ni­val to var­i­ous mu­si­cal strands which have found their way into Bri­tish pop mu­sic over the years, the Caribbean has long cast a colour­ful, of­ten com­plex shadow on the cul­ture of a coun­try many thou­sands of miles away.

Mir­ror to the Soul, Stu­art Baker’s new doc­u­men­tary, dives into that ex­pe­ri­ence. Con­sist­ing of 60 Pathé news pieces filmed in Ja­maica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Guyana, Ber­muda, Belize, Trinidad and else­where be­tween 1920 and 1972, it pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing pic­ture of how the Caribbean was pre­sented to au­di­ences back in Bri­tain at the time.

The clips, broad­cast in cinemas be­fore the main film be­gan, in­formed the au­di­ence about life, mu­sic and strife in those far­away lands. As well as big sto­ries such as the Bay Of Pigs in­va­sion in Cuba, there were lighter fea­tures (the “and fi­nally . . .” pieces so beloved of TV news shows) on ev­ery­thing from bas­ket-weav­ing and ba­nanas to folk dances and the do­mes­tic cof­fee in­dus­try.

In many ways, those clips de­fined how Bri­tish peo­ple view the Caribbean and it’s telling that the clips moved from hard news to tourism blurbs as the years went by.

Baker is the founder of the Soul Jazz record label and it’s no sur­prise that the doc­u­men­tary DVD re­lease comes with two hefty com­pi­la­tions of Afro-Caribbean sounds in­clud­ing mambo, ca­lypso, funk, reg­gae, Latin jazz and much more. You could ar­gue that mu­sic has been more im­por­tant than any other Caribbean prod­uct in am­pli­fy­ing the re­gion’s soft power.

Mir­ror to The Soul

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