Japanese 'Dub' Jamaica

Published: Monday | March 30, 2009

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

The victorious Mighty Crown team, with the Jamaican member of the Japanese sound system at right, holds the 2007 'Death Before Dishonour' Trophy at Pier 1, Montego Bay, St James. - Contributed

In recent times, some Japanese have become part of Jamaica's reggae/dancehall culture and have also fused the eccentric lifestyle with their own.

Very often Japanese sound system operators come to the island to make dub plates and record Jamaican artistes.

Japanese-born Sammy 'Sami-T' Tse, owner of and a selector for Mighty Crown, said his love for reggae started to develop when he heard Bob Marley and, as a result, he started Mighty Crown in 1991. He came to the island for the first time in 1993 to get his first dub plate, which he refers to as a 'special'.

To date, Mighty Crown has done dub plates with and voiced most of the best Jamaican artistes in the music business.

In an authentic-sounding Jamaican dialect, Tse said: "I been voicing most of the artistes that are hot in the business. The only special mi nuh get yet is Supercat. Mighty Crown name kinda big now so we work with most of the artistes, we work with artistes that will work with us."

Won world clash

Since Mighty Crown won the World Clash in 1999, and many other clashes along the way, Tse said many other Japanese sound systems have emerged.

"I think there was a time when there was a whole heap a Japanese sounds. Many Japanese sounds came and voice tunes, but not as much as a couple years ago. Lots of sounds just fade," Tse told The Gleaner, while noting that he spends half of the year in Jamaica and the other half in Japan.

Roundhead, of the group Monster Hemp Higher, which also includes Ghost and General B, has been one such artiste who has benefited from the Japanese's desire to work with Jamaican artistes.

"Yuh coulda get work like two, three times fi di week from Japan," Roundhead said.

He said he usually does dub plates for some of his more popular songs like Weed Is Life and Torture, but he still gets requests to do medleys with 'girls' tunes' like Buss Weh and Miss Chin.

Roundhead said this is usually good for the artistes because this helps them to make extra money outside of performances.

"Since dub plate man all buy dem house and nice car but none a wi newer artistes nah get work from Japan like some a di older artistes," he added.

Loud Disturbance

Producer Germaine 'Mafia' Clarke, owner of Loud Disturbance Records, said the Japanese come to Lifetime Studios where he works on a regular basis. Usually, they go there to work with Busy Signal, who Clarke voices quite often.

"Dem come from time to time. Dem save dem money fi one year and come and if yuh nuh deh inna di island dem wait till yuh come back 'cause a yuh dem fly all the way from Japan fi see. Some a dem all live here now," Mafia told The Gleaner.

According to the Jamaican Embassy in Tokyo website, more than 100,000 Japanese travellers have visited Jamaica in the last 15 years. And as of October 2005, 183 Japanese nationals were residing in Jamaica.

With dance songs gaining popularity in Japan, the duo RDX's fame has been on the rise.

One of the group members, Delomar, said RDX was requested often for dub plates because its dance songs are a favourite in Japan. He said the Japanese also come to Jamaica to do dub plates with other artistes who are popular in Japan such as Elephant Man, Da'Ville, T.O.K. and Voicemail, as most of these acts have popular dance songs. However, Mavado and Vybz Kartel are usually requested for dub plates when it comes clashing.

Absorb Jamaican culture

Delomar pointed out that they also come to the island to absorb the Jamaican culture.

"Dem a try absorb the dancehall 'cause it a tek off inna Japan. So dem try fi tek di latest and carry it back inna Japan and buss it. If dem caan mek it fi di dub plates and songs dem have dem links wid different different studios," Delomar said.

And when the Japanese cannot get the Jamaican artistes, Delomar said the Japanese have their own replica.

"Inna Japan dem all have dem own RDX, T.O.K, Vybz Kartel, Da'Ville, all a de Jamaican artistes weh a shot (popular). It expensive fi go Japan so when dem have the small shows and dem caan fly in the artistes dem have dem duplicate. A so dem siddung and patternise everything the Jamaican artistes do and just do it," Delomar said.

Street dances

This is quite evident based on the number of videos that are posted on popular websites such as youtube.com as a simple search for 'Japan dancehall' reveals more than 800 videos. Also popular are the many street dances held there which mimic the ones held in Jamaica on weekdays. They also have their own reggae clubs and concerts such as 'Reggae Japansplash' and 'One Love Jamaica Festival'.

Tse said the Japanese have an innate love for reggae and dancehall music.

"I think they (Japanese) like the beat and the island music and Japan is a next island. People relate to the reggae music and culture. Jamaica is a paradise when it comes to musical stuff," said Tse.

Japanese contestants at the Dancehall Queen contest in Montego Bay, St James, on July 28, 2007.