Just when it appeared Japan's decades-long reggae
boom had finally run its course, along comes a new generation to breathe life into the
Chief among the new blood is young singer Mikidozan, who will be headlining a homegrown
lineup of reggae talents at next weekend's Soul Rebel 2001 outdoor festival. In a sign of
the times, the festival takes the place of defunct mega-events starring overseas reggae
talent-such as Reggae Japansplash-as Japan's biggest reggae concert of the year.
If you were in Japan this summer, you would have had a hard time avoiding Mikidozan's
single, "Lifetime Respect." A revivalist track in the dancehall vein-powered by
Jamaica's leading rhythm section of keyboardist Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson and
drummer Cleveland "Clevie" Browne-the song has received enough airplay to make
one think it was the answer to Japan's ills.
And in some ways it is. Written as a response to the country's declining morality, the
song intends to point a way for Japan's youth out of the materialist morass they have
fallen into. In a PR statement, the shaven-headed Mikidozan said, "Children who have
been brought up with too little love and respect tend to have little sympathy. I think
that's one of the reasons that times are so troubled right now."
The success of the song has also given a boost to the career of other young Japanese
reggae artists. Dancehall diva Pushim's newest video, for example, has been in heavy
rotation recently on MTV and Space Shower, as have been those by Moomin and H-Man, also on
the Soul Rebel bill. All these artists adhere to Mikidozan's credo: "Music sung by
Japanese, in Japanese, about Japan."
Some 20 artists in all, including many younger acts as well as veterans like Rankin Taxi,
will be featured in next weekend's Soul Rebel 2001 festival. For listings: Soul Rebel 2001
Japanese reggae omnibus. Hibiya Yagai Ongakudo, 10/14, 3pm, JY4500. Info: Overheat Music
Mikidozan performs as part of Soul Rebel 2001 at Hibiya Yagai Ongakudo on Oct 14. See
listings for details.