MUSIC LESSON: Professor Noriko Manabe fields questions from the audience.
There’s just something about our “tropical music.” For as long as Jamaicans have been exporting reggae music to the four corners of the planet, people like the Japanese have been busy ‘creating’ their own Asian version. Experts believe this occurrence could have started from as early as the mid-1970s, when the Jimmy Cliff motion picture The Harder They Come became an international sensation. Bob Marley’s 1979 visit to
The Ivy League academic was a guest of the UWI’s Department of Literatures in English, where she delivered an informative, engaging public lecture, “Locating the Jamaican and the Japanese in Reggae/Dancehall,” on Tuesday. True, Japanese reggae and dancehall performers (like pioneers Nahki, Rankin taxi and Papa U-Gee) have always punctuated their lyrics with Jamaican patois, while channeling the music’s infectious riddims, with Jamaica (and our annual reggae fests) being a vital destination for those truly in love with the music (Japanese reggae artistes are heavily influenced during their visits to the island). But is it just a case of curious cultural interplay. Are most of these Japanese just casual listeners or hardcore fans of the music? Many are drawn to reggae’s messianic themes, according to Manabe, and events like Japansplash, which attracts massive crowds annually is considered the biggest driver of reggae fandom in
At the same time, Manabe notes that reggae artistes in
Speaking of which, critics argue that the current dancehall boom in
Meanwhile, the lyrics inherent in Japanese reggae, says Manabe, are largely characterized by humour, occasional political critiques, partying, dancing and romance. Jamaican dancehall is renowned for frequently homophobic content, and this is not lost on the Japanese counterparts, Manabe argues. However, she is quick to point out that
Unsurprisingly however, in a country where ‘out’ pop entertainers like Minmi and Ikko enjoy mass followings, Japanese reggae and dancehall acts are keen on avoiding involvement with gay performers. “Most Japanese reggae artistes are sensitive to the taboo issues in Jamaican dancehall culture,” says Manabe. “They see the need to respect the place of or reggae’s original birth by not associating with gay acts.”
KEEN EARS: A section of the audience at the public lecture at the UWI on Tuesday.
Related Posts:* Reggae Film Festival: Tallawah’s take on the highs and lows