BY RICHARD JOHNSON—
Last year British-born, New York-based writer and reggae lover Vivien Goldman was in Jamaica for activities related to International Reggae Day. Based on discussions she had with players in the local music industry, she became aware of the death of the local vinyl industry.
“How could this happen?” she questioned. “Vinyl is such a strong signature of Jamaican music, and the fact that this arm of Jamaican music and culture was dying was astonishing.”
Goldman would team up with the international firm The Vinyl Factory to produce Pressing Matters, a docu-film on this dying aspect of Jamaica’s culture.
“Like me, The Vinyl Factory was distressed that a country like Jamaica, which through vinyl had spread its culture across the world and created a life-blood industry, there was no pressing plant to manufacture these records, despite a global resurgence in the demand for the product.”
The documentary shows how iconic record shops like Randy’s and Rockers International are now ghosts of their former selves. Goldman and her crew conducted interviews with veterans such as musician Earl “Chinna” Smith, and curator/director of the Jamaica Music Museum Herbie Miller, and was able to piece together a personal story of how a culture so rooted in records has found itself in decline.
For Goldman, who first started coming to Jamaica in the 1970s and worked with the likes of reggae king Bob Marley, Pressing Matters is personal.
“I remember first coming to Jamaica in the 70s and going to Randy’s and buying my records and getting the iconic Randy’s paper bag. I had it pinned to the cork board in my apartment in London for years. It was such a central part of the culture and identity of the music and culture of Jamaica, and it is a shame to abandon something that lies at the core. For me, the vinyl sound gives a full-bodied and richer texture. The sounds are more extreme… just fuller and denser. It’s like comparing milk — full cream versus skimmed,” she mused.
She is elated that in recent weeks has come the news that Tuff Gong, the studio and manufacturing plant owned by the Bob Marley Group of Companies, is to resume pressing vinyl record under a deal with Florida-based entity Sunpress Vinyl.
“This is such great news. I hope it provides an injection for the people and the culture. Vinyl is so tied to Jamaican music when you think about how the sound system and that whole culture has spread the great vibes of the island to the world. I think a lot of people just missed that non-digital sound which had carved out a space for itself and many of us have always loved it, and so it has clawed its way back into the system.”
She admits that she overshot during filming and, therefore, has a lot more footage than is in the short now running on the Vinyl Factory’s website and online, but noted that she is heartened by the response to the work.
“I am touched to the core. It just demonstrates the love that is out there for Jamaica and its music. I hope more will be invested into seeing projects like the museum where Randy’s once stood come alive. It was freaky going back there and just seeing this space. So I’m waiting to see where it will go,” said Goldman.