Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records - Documentary Review

Updated: Jul 13

★★★★

Written & Directed by: #NicholasJackDavies

Starring: #LeePerry, #TootsHibbert, #PaulineBlack, #DerrickMorgan, #DonLetts, #DandyLivingstone

Documentary Review by Taryll Baker

Selected for the 'We Are One' Global Film Festival

Photography by Jonas Mortensen

During the late ’60s and early ’70s, a multicultural revolution took place on the dance floors in Britain—and it couldn’t have happened without Trojan Records. The iconic London-based label had its finger on the pulse of the country’s new wave of Jamaican immigrants, and as quickly as they signed top acts like the Upsetters and Jimmy Cliff, they made their mark on the British youth culture by kicking off a new craze for reggae, dub, rocksteady, and ska.


Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records begins in Jamaica in 1956, where we get our first short look at the culture at the time, and the high spirits of the locals sharing in moments of joy through the power of song. Following this, the introduction of ska music, rudeboys, immigration in London and, finally, the birth of Trojan Records. The remaining hour of Rudeboy delves into the history of the record label, the challenges the artists faced due to race, huge shifts in culture (including skinheads), and the eventual collapse of Trojan in 1975.

Docudramas are hard to tackle — you don’t want the fictionalised footage to feel cheap or distract from the facts being presented in the archival footage. Rudeboy alternates between the two effortlessly, essentially making a seamless viewing experience. Divided into several chapters, the film deep-dives into the heart of Jamaican music, the impact it had on music going forward, showing the strong roots that were grown, but never destroyed with the downfall of Trojan.

Photography by Jonas Mortensen

By the end of the film, we see footage of a country embracing the music of Jamaica. What seems like two far different worlds, coming together as one. Of course, Rudeboy does a good job of showing the clash of cultures. The racism is discussed, perhaps not enough, but it’s certainly brought into the picture when vital. However, what this docudrama succeeds in, is showing people express themselves, regardless of skin colour. When the music is playing, everyone is there in that special moment. It’s an absolutely crucial part of life. Without music, creative expression would dissipate, moods would dampen, and certain social activities would die out.


As a composer and lover of many genres of music, Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records struck a chord (excusing the pun). Without these legends, the music we hear today would be very different. Some of your favourites bear the marks from the impact that Jamaica had on musical culture. Trace the history and you’ll see just how important this period of time was. Embrace it, respect it, and enjoy it.


#TaryllBaker