Yokosuka Reggae Super Bash
Japansplash is reinvented with a controversial cast of
Ever since Bob Marley began to draw Japanese converts in
the late '70s, reggae has had a special place in Japanese
hearts and minds. Reggae bars sprouted in the most unlikely
areas, and Japanese youth had their stubbornly straight hair
done in impossibly expensive Rasta-style dreadlock permanents.
Essential to the reggae boom has been the annual Reggae Japansplash,
which was the music festival of the summer in the days before
Fuji Rock. But in recent years, as the audience for roots
reggae in Japan waned as it has elsewhere, Japansplash has
had mixed fortunes. After a few on and off years in the late
'90s and a brief revival in 2002-2003, the sponsor
pulled out and Japansplash was consigned to history.
In the meantime, a whole new generation has adopted the newer
sounds of dancehall reggae emanating from Japan as its own.
In recent years, the Yokohama Reggae Festival has taken over
as summer's premiere reggae event, with younger artists
like Moomin, Pushim and Mighty Crown creating their own form
of Japa-reggae replete with Japanese lyrics that kids can
get their heads around.
With this weekend's Reggae Super Bash, the international
reggae festival baton is passed from the roots reggae legends,
who brought reggae to Japan, to Jamaica's younger dancehall
artists, who create the music on which the current Japa-reggae
wave is based. The promoter, Tomorrow House, which used to
handle Japansplash, says it changed its approach and the name
of the festival when previous sponsor, cigarette brand Kool,
For an indication of the relative youth of the lineup, consider
the fact that the dean of the lot, the sweet-voiced Buju Banton,
didn't even debut until 1986, 20 years after Bob Marley
made his first recordings. A popular dancehall artist of the
late '80s, Banton converted to Rastafarianism after
a controversy over his purportedly anti-gay lyrics and the
murders of his DJs Pan Head and Dirtsman, issuing his best
work in the mid-'90s.
In a sign of the preponderance of MCs over singers in today's
Jamaican music scene, the only other singer on the bill mixes
MC-style shouting with his melodies. Known for his "sing-jay"
style, Sizzla had a run of successful singles in the late
'90s and remains a contender on the Jamaican charts.
Familiar to many will be MC and Grammy nominee Beenie Man.
After touring with Shabba Ranks in '94 raised his profile,
Beenie Man began to appear on North American releases with
artists like Wyclef Jean and the Neptunes. Interestingly,
Beenie Man is now at the center of a controversy over anti-gay
lyrics of his own, facing possible criminal prosecution in
the UK for lyrics that allegedly incite violence against homosexuals.
The youngest artist on the bill, Assassin, was born in 1982-around
the time when Japan's first reggae bars were opening.
Considered one of Jamaica's most promising DJs, Assassin
has also reached the charts in the US and England with "Dem
Ting Deh" featuring Bounty Killer. His first full-length
is due out later this year.
The token Japanese presence in the lineup comes in the form
of Mighty Crown, who as it happens are also behind their hometown
Yokohama Reggae Festival. Formed in '91 by brothers
Masta Simon and Sami-T, the five-man group have mastered the
difficult vocabulary of Jamaican patois. They became the world
champions at the World Clash '99 held in Brooklyn,
New York, defeating teams from the US and even Jamaica.
In an aside, the promoter states that Buju Banton may not
be able to come due to a conviction for marijuana possession.
While this didn't stop Paul McCartney from entering
Japan, Tomorrow House explains that "Buju Banton has
a problem to obtain the entry visa to Japan...therefore his
appearance is to be confirmed. In the event his visa is rejected,
his position will be replaced with another artist of the same
And finally, for those for whom nothing will do but roots
reggae, Jamaica's Skatalites, who helped to lay the
foundation for reggae 40 years ago, will be in Tokyo next
week for a solo tour of their own, while smooth UK reggae
survivor Maxi Priest is at the Blue Note.
Sep 12, 3pm, ¥8,400 (adv),
¥9,000 (door). Yokosuka Kurihama Ferry Port, Open Stage.
Tel: 03-5410-9999 or 045-671-9911.
credits: Tomorrow House
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