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by Don Crispy

Dubnation

Japan’s premiere nu dub event hosts a UK legend, while Tokyo’s gay community angles to take up the slack after a crackdown in Singapore

Dubsensemania

The thunderous beats of dub have sustained a cult following in Japan that has almost outlived its existence in its native Jamaica. Three decades after it branched off from reggae in the ganja-clouded studios of Kingston, visits by legends like Lee “Scratch” Perry are still a regular occurrence.

Japan has meanwhile spawned many of its own dub acts. The upcoming Dubnation provides a chance for some of them to strut their stuff, graced by the presence of one of the UK reggae scene’s veteran singers.

Dubsensemania were formed in 1998 by longtime dub fanatic Ras Takashi, who plays the pianica, a wind-powered harmonica-like keyboard instrument—favored by Jamaican practitioners for its simple and piercing sound when matched with a bass and drums.

Originally a solo digital project, Takashi hooked up with pioneer of the Japa-reggae scene PJ, a drummer and vocalist, eventually filling out the band by around 2000 to create a complete the seven membeer live ensemble. The group released its debut CD Appearance last summer with Sony, mixed by UK dub veteran Dennis Bovell, who recognized the continued vitality and commercial appeal of the Japanese dub and reggae scene.

Also appearing will be all-female dub trio Killa Sista, longtime Japan resident and dub poet Izaba, along with a number of other acts. The special guest of the event comes in the form of one of the UK reggae scene’s founding fathers. The lead vocalist for Aswad for over 30 years, Brinsley Forde’s tenor set many of the group’s songs alight, including singles that climbed into the pop charts like “African Children.” A veteran who helped to put the UK reggae scene on par with Jamaica’s, Forde now hosts a show, “Live Up Yourself,” on BBC radio...

Meanwhile, Tokyo looks to establish itself as Asia’s premiere gay nightlife destination after the government of Singapore banned the city-state’s Jungle Media group from holding its Snowball party last Christmas.

The Singapore branch of Hong Kong-based gay website fridae.com, Jungle Media had made Singapore the gay culture capital of Asia with its massive Nation parties, drawing crowds of over 8,000 the last three years. But when Singapore police reported people of the same gender “seen openly kissing and intimately touching each other,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave approval for the police to refuse to grant Jungle Media further licenses, saying Snowball “is likely to be organized as a gay party which is contrary to the public interest.”

Tokyo takes up the gay nightlife mantle under the banner of a three day party to coincide with the Chinese New Year. Universe brings together many of Japan’s leading gay party organizers, kicking off the festivities Thursday with the latest installment of the Paradise Ball parties. For the event, Nation DJ David S will be making the trip from Singapore.

He arrives with a new release in the form of the Resident 2: Housequake!!! double-disc set, which includes tracks by artists from the Chemical Brothers to N.E.R.D. to Deep Dish. The DJ of choice for fashion events for brands like Chanel and Diesel, David S also was the only house DJ to make it to the finals of the MTV DJ contest in 2003.
Universe then continues on into the weekend with Red slated for Unit in trendy Daikanyama, winding up Saturday with Housequake at Ruins 23 in Shinjuku. Leading house DJs will be behind the decks, with go-go boys and drag queens on hand to rev up the proceedings.

While Japan doesn’t have an overtly progressive stance on gay politics like countries such as Canada or the Netherlands, its laissez-faire, don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach means that Universe could help to rapidly establish Tokyo as Asia’s top destination for the pink dollar.

Dubnation@Unit, Feb 10. Universe (www.joinac.com/universe), Feb 10-12. See club listings for details. M

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.