International Music Spotlight: Japanese Reggae

The first entry in our international music spotlight series focused on Ugandan hip hop. Today we head east to explore Japanese reggae. Numerous sub-genres of reggae have a presence is Japan, though dancehall is arguable the most popular – perhaps due to the erotic nature of the accompanying dance moves? Try googling “Japanese dancehall”. Woah. Anyway. The focus here will simply be on reggae in Japan.

Here’s a little taste: Pang. (Now there’s a girl that looks good with a shaved head.)

Many are surprised to learn that there is a reggae scene in Japan at all. From what I’ve found, the big names seem to include the following: Rankin Taxi, Ackee & Saltfish, Pushim, Ryo The Skywalker, Mighty Crown, Megaryu, Lecca, and DJ Tokiyas.

Megaryu is one of my favorites. Check out this song. There’s something about it that reminds me of a Los Pericos song, Pupilas Lejanas…perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of a sad, sort of soaring melody filled with melancholy (at least that’s the emotion that I get from it without actually understanding the words) against a light, simple reggae beat.

According to the Rastafari Wikipedia page: “A small but devoted Rasta community developed in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rasta shops selling natural foods, Reggae recordings, and other Rasta-related items sprang up in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities. For several years, “Japan Splashes” or open-air Reggae concerts were held in various locations throughout Japan.”

In recent years, dancehall reggae has emerged as the dominant form of reggae in Japan. One might wonder why that particular subgenre has risen to the top. What is it about dancehall that appeals to its fans in Japan? Do the faster-paced, more flashy, less political/religious facets of dancehall resonate more closely with Japanese culture? Or just with a subset of energetic Japanese youth?

Perhaps Blake More can shed some light on these questions with his unique dissection of the culture, Jamming in Jah Pan.

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