Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande (2022)  – Documentary Review


By Sarah Morgan

Musical biopics and documentaries aren’t exactly a rarity, but what is unusual is for one to leave its mark on viewers in quite the way as Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande does. This is not a rags-to-riches story; it’s not even quite one of triumph over adversity, although there are elements of this. Instead, it’s more a case of determination, longevity and passion against the odds.

Chances are that, unless you happen to be a fan, you’ve never heard of Cymande, but you may be familiar with some of their music, albeit sampled by a different performer.

Getting-it-Back-The-Story-of-CymandeThe name comes from a calypso word for dove, the symbol of peace and love, and while its members may have espoused that approach to life, the British music scene, it seems, did not. Formed in 1971 by members of the Windrush generation or their offspring, the group had very humble beginnings, but quickly became beloved within the London Afro-Caribbean community they called home. Sadly that passion didn’t spread as far as it should have done.

“Enduring part of their legacy”

Despite their obvious skill as musicians, the members went their separate ways after just three years, having become the first British headliners of New York’s Apollo Theatre during a remarkable US tour at a time when, to their eternal shame, no UK broadcaster would book them for a TV appearance.

During that time, Cymande also recorded three albums, which are the most enduring part of their legacy. In this feature-length documentary, superfans Craig Charles and Mark Ronson are among those waxing lyrical about them, while others reveal how important the music became to burgeoning hip-hop artists including Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, who used certain aspects of Cymande’s songs as breakbeats.

More than 40 years on from their split, the band got back together, and their reputation has only grown in the period since. Hopefully, this resurgence is giving the surviving members a financial boost during their pensionable years because that’s the very least they deserve.


“A love letter to a band”

Getting it Back can not only be seen as a love letter to a band that isn’t really forgotten, but rather rarely seen, but also as a history of a dull, near-sighted and, frankly, embarrassing period for the UK, where its cultural and political leaders largely failed to nurture the talent on its doorstep. And with arts grants and funding currently cut or under threat, it seems the powers-that-be have learnt little in the intervening years.

Among the special features are an interview with members Steve Scipio and Patrick Patterson, rare footage of Cymande in action and a selection of extended clips chosen by director Tim Mackenzie-Smith.

Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande is available on Blu-ray, from RRP: £16.99.


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