Rockers International Record shop

Orange Street, Kingston, Jamaica

Located on Kingston’s iconic Orange Street for over 40 years, Rockers International still flies the flag high for Jamaican vinyl. Some months back we sent photographer Didi Beck along with journalist Clare Considine to document one of Jamaica’s most influential record stores.

Kingston born and bred, Didi cherished the opportunity to photograph this legendary spot in downtown where her mother used to go to buy music for her radio shows on FAME FM and RJR (Radio Jamaica, formerly known as Real Jamaican Radio).

It was cool to go with Clare who was seeing it for the first time, someone who is not from Jamaica, because it allowed me to really dig in and take the photos I would have wanted to take as an outsider looking in. [Didi]

Established in 1979 by melodica pioneer, Augustus Pablo, as a record shop and label, Rockers bore witness to Orange Street’s golden era when it was lined with vinyl shops and recording studios all throbbing with activity. With Randy’s Studio 17 and Coxonne Dodd’s Studio One down the road, it was at the forefront of Jamaica’s reggae, ska and rocksteady scene. Today, Rockers is not only a landmark on what is dubbed by locals as ‘ghost street’, one of only a handful of vinyl stores left standing in this district, but a landmark in the history of what came to be one of the most important musical genres of the 20th century.

Although aware of the significant role Pablo and Rockers played in exporting Jamaica’s sound to the rest of the world, Didi was entering the store for the first time in her 28 years. Embodying the experience of returning home to Jamaica after 10 years living in Los Angeles, she found herself captivated by the true Jamaican spirit she was now perceiving with fresh eyes. Mitchie who heads up Rockers is the legitimate depiction of this – enterprising, accommodating, bursting with creativity and above all ‘there for the vibe’. The energy and warmth that Didi and Clare were met with that afternoon on Orange Street is perfectly translated through her photos.

They bring it out in people… through their records, through their sounds, through their hospitality, what they think you’ll like, the way they spin differently from the other guy…it’s about individuality.’[Didi]

Characters such as Mitchie are why people go to Jamaica, for a taste of authenticity. It’s a visual storyteller’s paradise. As a result, Didi is fully embracing being back on the island where for the first time she is seeing what all non-islanders see when they visit Jamaica, a bountiful source of inspiration. Embarking on her debut film, ‘High Strangeness’, a ‘duppy [ghost] comedy’ set in Kingston, a whole new world of creativity has been opened up to her, one that was on her doorstep this whole time.