Documenting rootsThursday, May 07, 2020
By Howard Campbell
Born in New Jersey, USA, to Jamaican parents, Linton Hinds Jr was acquainted with the culture of their homeland. He developed an appreciation for the country's food, music and home remedies such as the roots tonic.
Those natural drinks, once shunned as backward concoctions, are the rage in Jamaica, with countless brands on the market.
They are the subject of Roots Tonic: Jamaica's Cure All Drink, a documentary directed and produced by Hinds. It was released April 24 by his I Never Knew TV.
The 16-minute project was filmed in Jamaica and New Jersey. It contains interviews conducted by cinematographer Ryan Hohn over five months with Sylvia Mitchell, senior lecturer in the Biotechnological department at The University of the West Indies; Ras Stimulant and Trevor Farqhuarson, who produce their line of roots tonics in rural Jamaica; and Gregory Rutty, proprietor of Sunsplash Caribbean Bakery in New Jersey.
“The idea came about in the summer of 2019. As a man that drinks roots and make his own roots I felt I needed to do something to educate our people on the history and benefits of the herbs and roots,” Hinds told the Jamaica Observer.
“Too many people view the medicinal practices of our ancestors as backwards and ineffective. When in fact we should be thankful for the ethnomedical heritage we have in Jamaica and do our part in maintaining this information for the next generation.”
The 35-year-old Hinds lives in New Jersey where he operates I Never Knew TV, a YouTube channel that features stories on the genesis of Jamaican music, Rastafari and interviews with roots-reggae artistes.
'Roots Tonic' is the company's second documentary. The first, Chanting Rastafari, explores the Nyahbinghi's origins in Uganda.
Through Mitchell, Ras Stimulant, Farqhuarson and Rutty, the viewer hears about the roots drink's African lineage as well as their health benefits, which includes improving male potency, curing diabetes and urinary tract infections, and easing menstrual pains.
Hinds' introduction to roots tonics came from his father. His first sip was not enticing.
“My pops used to drink roots. I remember when we used to visit Jamaica, he would buy roots from a Rastman called Atari. Just remember it being brown and tasting terrible,” he recalled. “As I got older and became plant-based, started learning about the benefits of roots and herbs, I found myself drinking the same brown drink.”
Many Jamaicans had a similar reaction after first tasting 'roots', which was once sold exclusively among Rastafarians or in rural parishes. Some of their main ingredients, such as the Chaney root and medina, are featured in Hinds' documentary.