Saturday, 1 October 2016

Ska'd by the music (story of the Symarip)




Ska’d by the music (story of the Symarip)
I earn a living from commissioned video production work, teaching media studies and running audio-visual workshops.  But very occasionally I pursue a labour of love. A film I feel compelled to make whatever the outcome, process or financial backing. Such a film has had my, somewhat divided, yet consistent attention since 2012. 

Ska’d by the music is the story of the Symarip, (also known as The Bees, Seven Letters, the Pyramids and Zubaba). I first heard their music many years ago in the late 1970s and early 80s, following the Two-Tone revival of Ska music in the UK.

I think some people might expect a documentation of recorded gigs and maybe something about the band. If that is the case you will be disappointed, what I wanted to highlight is how significant they were at capturing a moment in time.What I found so fascinating about them was the audience they attracted. Not the first group of black musicians to appeal to a predominantly white audience. But this was different, they were appealing to the Council Estate kids.  
 
The Jamaican kids, alienation and lack of opportunities, were being echoed in white working class teenagers. It’s a complicated subject and that was why I felt a desire to address it.
The establishment branding these two groups separately as a problem. Found themselves becoming increasingly uncomfortable at the now common ground these teenagers found in each other.
They were working in the same factories, going to the same clubs and dance halls. Sharing and exchanging music and culture, it doesn't take a huge leap to see where the parallels were drawn and connection were made.

The 1960s were offering a period of change, although perhaps a little more progressive in some areas than others. Looking at film and music culture during this period, we get some indication of attitudes of the time.
In the UK, earlier in the 1960s for example, we can see reactions to films like a 'Taste of Honey' (dealing with mix-race relationships and having a gay character in the storyline).
Warwickshire County Council had banned the film ' Saturday Night Sunday Morning’. The distributors at the time had been concerned. They saw a problem with a film in which the working classes were portrayed as leading an active sex life! 

We only have to watch some of those TV programmes dealing with attitudes in the 1960 and 70’s to see that however far you feel we need to go as a society, we have come a long way since then.
Symarip in terms of the music they produced, the audiences that followed them needed to be documented. Both as a reflection of music and fashion, but also I believe as a consideration of social and economic history
of the time.

Anybody who remembers seeing the response to the ‘Sex Pistols’ and Punk in general in the press and on TV, will remember how paranoid the authorities were. So if we take that to some eight years earlier. Those of us not around, or too young to remember. We can only imagine, what the responses must have been like to this group of young Jamaican Rude-boys. The nervousness and snobbery of the powers that be, escalating into something else. 

Symarip were not overtly political, but they were making changes in their own way.  They did not discriminate what colour their girlfriends were. They engaged with white working class teenagers following a skinhead fashion. On a knife-edge, it would only take one thing to push those in power to start banning the group, songs and any performances. Of course the inevitable happened, overzealous teenagers smashing up furniture was all that was needed. Songs were banned by the clubs, BBC and the Mecca ballrooms. . .

Ska’d by the music (story of the Symarip) released January 2018