We recently sat down with Director Nisha Rebel to have a chat about filmmaking and the Reggae Revival. Here’s what Nisha had to say:
DSE SHORTS: You have a grandfather who built the foundation for roots reggae, and a mother who dedicated the first half of her life to forwarding that conscious message with Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers. Talk a little bit about where you see your place in the reggae revival movement, and why the “Reggae Revival” in Jamaica is a significant and positive development for the music that your family is so committed to.
Nisha Rebel: The Reggae Revival is a positive development and contribution alongside with the music my family has contributed to the world. I think the Reggae Revival was necessary, it had to come- it just had to. Just like Syria is having uprisings, Egypt had uprisings and also in America with the Occupy Wall Street movement. So I guess the Reggae Revival could be parallel to those things. It’s just that we came out using the tools that we knew which were music, art, and revolution in creative ways. In terms of my place in the revival, I don’t necessarily know that I have a “place” because a place lets me think of something physical. But in terms of a contribution, what is my contribution to this time? I think my contribution is my consciousness and my ability to communicate certain life experiences with hopes that it can give us some perspective as to what it is that we are in this physical manifestation in time. My thing is, you see us as musicians, as filmmakers, as photographers and ting but really we’re nation builders and I feel that’s one of my responsibilities to constantly remind artists through creating space for us to do work, that we’re not just artists for the media. We’re nation builders and we’re creating a history that will continue long after we have passed. Just like that history that we were able to learn from.
DSE SHORTS: How do you square the “Revival” with the fact that your family has kept conscious reggae music alive, most notably throughout the 1990s when most were tuned in to dancehall? Does this new resurgence build on what ZM&MM, Burning Spear, Israel Vibration, Anthony B, Sizzla and others did to forward this music? Or is this something wholly new, and organically built from the roots?
Nisha Rebel: Well I say great, I say great because I don’t believe in competition. I don’t believe that you can make a comparison between two times because it’s two totally different contexts that defines those times so it really would be unfair to make that comparison. What I will do is acknowledge it’s presence and say yeah it is valid…It is a continuation of the works they were doing and it can only help to continue to communicate the message to a different generation who may not have been able to access it from that time.
DSE SHORTS: Talk a bit about your work as a filmmaker and how this fits into the reggae revival movement?
Nisha Rebel: Well I’m yet to see the manifestation of my works as a filmmaker and how it fits into the reggae revival movement. Yes we have been apart of some of the music videos that have been coming out but at the same time I wouldn’t qualify that as an example of my work as a filmmaker within the movement. 50 Days in Africa I feel will be a definitive work for not only the reggae revival movement locally but I think a revival of the spirit of reggae internationally. I think it’s good that I’m not a musician within the reggae revival because then it shows people that it’s not just musicians who need to be active and who need to be a part of something great. We all have a space in this place.
DSE SHORTS: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers hoping to embark on a project similar to 50DNA?
Nisha Rebel: Be serious and be ready because it’s not just a project, it’s a life mission. When myself, Mykal Cushnie and Kelissa Mcdonald were endeavouring to Africa to film a documentary about the creative industries in Africa, we couldn’t have anticipated the kind of learning we were about to receive. We couldn’t have anticipated the kind of platform that was built for us, by Africans to carry back their stories. It became a responsibility. So I would say to young filmmakers; be ready and overstand that things aren’t going to be easy, it’s very challenging, time consuming and it can become very stressful and frustrating especially when people around you can’t see the vision and you need the support. So be ready for the challenges but also be ready for the beauty of the journey, because the beauty is not only in the end product but also in the journey.