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Heavenly Inna De Yard is the crate escape

Reggae documentary is a tour of Jamaica with a group of some of the elders of the musical genre

22 August, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Kiddus I, Winston McAnuff and Cedric Myton in Inna De Yard

INNA DE YARD
Directed by Peter Webber
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆☆

IT looks, simply put, like my idea of heaven.

A hill-top home with a verandah offering grandstand views across lush Jamaican scenery. An upright piano and a collection of other instruments. And then, inside, literally thousands upon thousands of singles and albums cramming every room – a crate digger’s dream.

This house is in the opening scenes of reggae documentary Inna De Yard – a gentle, lyrical, musical walk about the island with a group of some of the elders of the musical genre – and some younger musicians who are soaking up the work and wisdom of those who have been before them.

Directed by Peter Webber, the film brings together the likes of Cedric Myton (for those not up to scratch with such things, he was in a group called The Congoes who performed a legendary reggae tune called Fisherman), I-Threes singer Judy Mowatt and Ken Boothe.

Adding to this are Winston McAnuff, Kiddus I and The Viceroys – all reggae royalty who were about in the late 50s and 60s when American R&B, calypso and other styles were blended together to be given a Jamaican twist and the parents of reggae, ska and rock steady was born.

They all get together and start creating new versions of classics as they look to their roots and go back to an acoustic feel they recognise from their youths.

There is some neat social history portrayed through the memories shared, footage of the island in the immediate post-independence era. We also get to know the artists’ personal stories – Webber allows the camera to idle as the signers speak, and of course there is toe-tapping, soul-invading footage of them making music together.

You don’t have to be a reggae fan to enjoy this delicately made documentary (though if you are you simply have to see it).

Instead, it feels like a guided tour through Jamaica and an attempt to understand, rather than lecture along already well-trodden roads, how the island could have produced a musical genre that has gone global.

“Some countries have oil, diamonds, gold or silver,” says Winston McAnuff. “We have reggae music.”

McAnuff’s story is enthralling: he takes us to a church his father built. His dad was a preacher and he sung in his dad’s services. This link to gospel shows the influence the church had on 20th century black music. The same story can be applied to so much R&B and soul. He also speaks of how he lost his son, the singer Matthew McAnuff, who was murdered during a petty squabble: it was soon after he had a global hit with the song Be Careful – and seeing Winston speak about his loss is extremely moving.

The Viceroys – who also learned to sing as a three-part harmony group – met at church, and recored at Studio One in the 1960s: their voices have mellowed and aged like a world-class vintage.

Webber worked with director Kevin Macdonald on the film Earth: One Amazing Day. Macdonald made the seminal Marley doc about Bob – and this feels like Webber has been inspired by it.

It does not tell a story in a linear way – instead, it feels like you have been invited into a backyard where some absolutely stomping reggae musicians are hanging out, and allowed to take a seat while they work their way through some favoured grooves.

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