Our song of the day this morning was Tony Rebel’s Reggae Put Jamaica Pon Top, which contained the lines, Now if yu ever tek a trip/ go down a Japan/ see 10,000 Japanese down deh a jam/ a reggae music dem have a play inna session, so we’ll begin there with that country.
- Dr Noriko Manabe, assistant professor of musicology at Princeton University, speaking at a 2010 UWI lecture, explained the chronology of reggae and dancehall’s impact on Japan, starting in the early 1970s with the movie The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers album Catch a Fire and The Clash’s London Calling album. The Japanese reggae decade closed with Bob Marley’s 1979 concert, then the 1980s saw the Japanese adaptation – the opening of the reggae kissotem Black Hawk, a reggae magazine in 1981 and a record label in 1985. All that led to the now defunct Japansplash, which peaked in 1997 with an attendance of 50,000 persons in Tokyo. Japanese performers also came to Jamaica, including Nahki, one of the most popular reggae entertainers in Asia during the late 1980s and early 1990s, who worked with Sugar Minott in 1984, and Rankin Taxi visiting in 1983.
- Bob Marley and the Wailers started their ‘Babylon By Bus’ tour with three shows in Tokyo and one in Osaka.
- Dr Manabe also explained that cultural similarities between Japan and Jamaica have underpinned reggae and dancehall’s popularity there. For instance, there are similarities between Jamaican patois and Japanese, which are both melodious languages. Patois’ grammar, she said, is more reminiscent of Japanese than English.
- While reggae was born in Kingston city, Japanese reggae/dancehall performers tend not to come from Tokyo, but the more rural areas. Dr Manabe explained that there are aspects of Jamaican culture which resemble regional/rural Japanese culture, such as humour and warmth, directness and unpretentiousness. Even ‘Jah’, the invocation of deity in Jamaica, has a phonetic equivalent in Japan, though the meanings are entirely different.
- Many Jamaican artistes have released their albums exclusively in Japan over the years. Others have licensing arrangements with stores such as Rocker’s Island, a popular speciality dancehall, reggae record and CD store in Osaka. Rocker’s Island has manufactured a number of CDs under such arrangements for release in Japan, among them Best of the Early Buju Banton, Real Talk (Konshens), Bad From Mi Born (Munga Honourable), Live Life and Love It (G-Whizz), Luv a Dub (Alaine) and Thank You Father (I-Octane).
- Jamaicans who are in tune with the local entertainment scene would know the name Mighty Crown. The Japanese sound system won the 2007 World Clash: Death Before Dishonour sound clash. They would have also noticed the influx of Japanese dancers who always roll out for the street dances and put some of us to shame with their moves. Japanese dance groups have even won the World Reggae Dance Championships in 2012 and 2013.
- Other Japanese sound systems of note are Burn Down, Mighty Jamrock, Scorpion and Barrier Free.
- Indigenous Japanese reggae, called J-Reggae, has produced it fair share of stars, including Chehon, Fireball and JTB from Mighty Jamrock; Red Spider, Lecca and Hacnamatada.