True Born African: The Story of Winston "Flames" Jarrett

True Born African follows Winston "Flames" Jarrett, who tells us in his own words about his life as one of the Founding Fathers of Reggae music. We travel to his old neighborhoods in Jamaica, a reggae festival in California, and his new home in Seattle, Washington, sharing stories about the music and the philosophy that have kept him going for six decades in the music business.

This is the story of a man who rose from the poverty of Kingston's ghettos to achieve international musical success. Winston's voice graced numerous number-one hits on Jamaican radio as a backing vocalist for Alton Ellis & The Flames in the 1960s. Making his start in Ska music, he was one of the first musicians to record the new styles of Rocksteady and Reggae. When Alton Ellis migrated to England, Winston "Flames" became leader of the group now known as Winston Jarrett & the Righteous Flames. He met Haile Selassie I (Ras Tafari) in Jamaica in 1966 and remains a devoted member of the Ras Tafari movement. A singer, songwriter, producer, arranger, writer; now in his 70s, this pioneer and mentor to several generations of reggae musicians has recorded 20 albums and continues to tour the world.

  • Nicholas John Nakis
    Director
  • Nicholas John Nakis
    Producer
  • Winston "Flames" Jarrett
    Key Cast
    Jamaican musician active from the mid-1960s to today
  • Roger Steffens
    Narrator
    Host of "Reggae Beat" for 10 years, narrated the Oscar-winning documentary "Flight of the Gossamer Condor", voice prominently featured in "Forrest Gump", "Wag the Dog", "Ghosts of Mississippi", "The American President", "Can't Hardly Wait", "Liberty Heights"
  • Anthony Tackett
    Camera Operator
  • Chad Johnson
    Camera Operator
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    48 minutes 41 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 9, 2013
  • Production Budget:
    4,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Jamaica
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival
    Ocho Rios
    Jamaica
    August 4, 2013
    World Premiere
    Official Slection
Director Biography - Nicholas John Nakis

Nic Nakis is a writer, producer, and director in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. He has spent the past 20 years working in film and video production in the Seattle area, while also traveling around the world pursuing his passions for fitness, culture, and human unity. Evolving from punk rock zine-maker to documentary filmmaker, Nic has always endeavored to challenge your perceptions and expand your worldview.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Winston Jarrett is a legend of reggae music who has been on my listening radar since the mid-90s, when I first heard his backup vocals for Alton Ellis on some old Trojan Records vinyl. In 2008, we became friends. By some accident of circumstances, we were both living in Seattle and knowing some of the same people. After many hang-out sessions in his living room, listening to him tell fascinating stories about the musicians we both love, I decided to interview him on camera for the first time in 2011. Those interviews turned into this documentary, which eventually took me to Jamaica to film the places where Winston grew up. This film really only scratches the surface of Winston' fascinating life. I think it is a fitting tribute to his career that provides context to the man and his music.