Iconic Jamaican music and its local and global impact will be the subject of a new TV series from Narcos showrunner/executive producer Eric Newman; producer Ben Silverman, Chairman and Co-CEO of Propagate Content (Apple’s Planet of the Apps); and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.
Written by Sascha Penn (Power), the untitled drama will take a multiple-perspective look at the political discord that followed in the wake of Jamaican independence from Britain in 1962 and the birth of a local music industry.
Newman and Silverman originally pitched a show about the origin of reggae music to Vivendi-owned companies Universal Music Group and Studiocanal, which had been looking for projects to collaborate on.
Newman has a first-look feature producing deal with Studiocanal, which will be financing the development of the proposed series, with Chairman and CEO Didier Lupfer serving as executive producer. Meanwhile, UMG has an extensive catalog that the show can draw upon. UMG acquired the Island Records label — home to recording artists Bob Marley and U2 — and its vast library of Jamaican music when it purchased parent company PolyGram Records, to which Blackwell had sold in 1989.
The series will be shopped to premiere cable and streaming services. Penn executive produces, working closely with Marlon James — the Jamaican born author of the award-winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings — who also will executive produce.
“I am thrilled by the team we have assembled, and we are honored to be entrusted by Chris Blackwell to tell an amazing story about a little island that made, and continues to make, a lot of noise,” Newman said.
Blackwell was raised on Jamaica in one of its oldest families. At the center of almost everything he has accomplished has been a fierce commitment to benefit his home country. His story will be featured prominently in the show.
“This is a groundbreaking premium series focused on an extraordinary man who brought underrepresented music and ideas to the forefront of popular culture,” Silverman said. “Sascha Penn and Marlon James are perfect collaborators for the extraordinary Chris Blackwell, Eric and me.”
Northside Services’ Jeff Berg introduced Blackwell to the project and negotiating the deal for the trio. The project will be supervised on the Studiocanal front by Ron Halpern, Francoise Guyonnet, and Shana Eddy-Grouf.