Japanese reggae artiste Yoko aims high
Adrian Frater, News Editor
Japanese reggae artiste Yoko, popularly known as Rankin Pumpkin, is now beaming with pride as she achieved her major goal for 2012 when she appeared alongside dancehall's elite at Sting 2012 on Boxing Day.
"We are extremely delighted that she was again included in the line-up after making her Sting debut in 2011," said businessman Desmond Harvey, of the Montego Bay-based African Symbol Records, who has a long association with the Japanese singjay. "Sting is the place where you get real legitimacy as a dancehall artiste."
Yoko, who started her career in 1992 as a singer with the Japan-based International Holiday Band from the city of Osaka, encountered and fell in love with reggae music. She decided she wanted to become a singjay, chanting over pulsating rhythms like the top-flight dancehall acts, which have made reggae music a household name in Japan.
After parting company with the International Holiday Band, Yoko joined the Cha Cha Crew, one of the few reggae bands in Japan at the time. She quickly became an established name in Japan, doing original dancehall songs in Japanese.
Yoko got her first big break when she began working on the nightclub circuit, firstly in Osaka and later in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Kobe and Okayama. Her musical excursion placed her on the same platform as PJ, Rankin Taxi, and Nhaki, who are all well-known Japanese reggae acts.
Yoko's international appeal began to take shape when she joined ranks with African Symbols and began recording heavily, both in Japan and in Jamaica, which all but became her second home. Her basic introduction to Jamaica came courtesy of a combination she did with Jamaican singer Ceyon Harvey, the daughter of African Symbol's CEO Desmond Harvey.
With a growing catalogue, which includes songs done in both Japanese and English, Yoko's current collection includes songs like It's Love, Dancehall Queen, Mi No Mix Inna Babylon, So Much Trouble, Reggae Dub Sound, Tribute to Garnet Silk, Legalize It and a dazzling 2011 collaboration with Lady G titled A-One Class.
The ambitious Japanese thinks she is now ready to claim a place among the stars.
In addition to her recent Sting performance, Yoko has made an imprint on other major Jamaica events such as Reggae Sumfest 2001, the Bob Marley Birthday Bash 2005 and the Coral Gardens Remembrance in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Fresh off the release of her latest album, Reggae Dance Symphony, which features tracks with the likes of Luciano, Mikey General, Lady G and fellow Japanese act, Eel Man, Yoko is hoping that 2013 will be the year that she becomes established globally.