by Don Crispy
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
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
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
Feb 10-12. See club listings for details. M
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