Underground music documentaries you can stream now

Doc'n Roll is the new channel that will rock your world

Underground music documentaries you can stream now

It’s fairly underground, so you might not have heard of it (and it also takes place in the UK), but for six years the Doc’n Roll Film Festival has been taking over cinema screens in London to show some of the best independent music documentaries around.

Chances are, if you’re a music fan, you’ll have heard of some of the films that get screened but perhaps not had a chance to see them. It’s not like you can jump on a plane to watch a movie in another country, is it?

You certainly can’t this year, and the current lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic has put plans for the festival to tour the UK on hold. Instead, however, is has come up with a streaming platform, Doc’n Roll TV.

It’s an outlet for guerrilla filmmakers uncovering forgotten music histories and subcultures through old photographs and found footage. The festival has made 28 films available to stream on its site for a fee (starting at around Dhs15), with more to come.

Colm Forde, an audio-visual archivist who set up the festival in 2014, said: “Doc’n Roll TV’s launch line-up is a hand-picked selection of under-the-radar music documentaries, most of which premiered at past editions of Doc’n Roll Film Festival.

“This unique video on demand platform reflects our determination to bring great music docs to a nationwide audience… Especially during these uncertain times when escapism is no longer frowned upon.”

There are docs to stream on big names like Al Green, Gil Scott Heron and legendary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, along with stories you might not have heard. Go back to the 1970s to listen to Death, a trio of brothers credited as the first black punk band, pre-dating even the Ramones.

Take a psychedelic ride through the career of Betty Davis, a pioneering but elusive funk artist who wrote songs for The Chambers Brothers and the Commodores, as well as producing an iconic album or two of her own. Looking for something experimental? Step into the first full-length documentary on American free jazz/noise rock group Borbetomagus, A Pollock of Sound. 

For something with a new level of poignancy, try Manchester Keeps on Dancing, a vibrant account of house music’s arrival in Manchester in the 1980s that takes you right up to the city’s house explosion. Using previously unseen footage, and commentary from respected DJs of the scene (including the late Andrew Weatherall) it takes you far beyond the well-worn history of the Haçienda.

Somewhere in those 28 documentaries is your next new music obsession.

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