SOUL REBEL - Ten Years Devoted to the Reggae Scene
JaME plunges into the Japanese reggae scene during a festival organized by OVERHEAT MUSIC.
Held each autumn in Tokyo, the event was located in Hibiya Park, an open air, picturesque area surrounded by the concrete of government buildings. Before guests entered the Hibiya music hall, there were bewitching scents to enjoy emanating from the takoyaki and yakisoba stands, and to enter the festival, attendees were made to line up next to beer stands.
Hibiya hall is a sort of amphitheatre, and for the event the stage was covered with a large flag, decorated in the colors of the Rastafarian flag—the colors of the festival. Surprisingly, for a foreign spectator, the Japanese (who sometimes arrived in families) brought coolers of drinks and snacks with them. Younger children mingled, but many left as the time came for the beginning of the festival. The atmosphere surrounding the event held a lot of promises, and the program showed that the best of the Japanese reggae artists were participating in this big reunion. Now, onto the show!
SOUL REBEL PART 1:
Before the concert truly began, the sound system HUMAN CREST played as the spectators found their seats. They waited a few minutes for the show to begin, and it did, with the backup band ALPS BAND. Less known than their counterparts HOME GROWN, and a little less good, the musicians nevertheless put on a great performance during the first part of the show.
This part was devoted to less well-known artists, among which we found AKANE, who released her second album Straighter last August. Her new single Dancehall Head was well received by the audience; however, she didn't spend long on stage, because another singer took her place—MISON-B, from Osaka. The power of her voice was surprising, and she did an interesting duet with APOLLO, another promising young artist from Osaka.
But the highlight of the first part was a trio of men known as the ENT DEAL LEAGUE. This collaboration is composed of three singers who have proven themselves in Japanese dance halls: MICKY RICH, DOMINO-KAT and KEN-U, who came just before the release of their second album, ABCDEnt. The first two have a dancehall style that KEN-U complements with his reggae voice. With their performance the atmosphere picked up and grew stronger.
The first part ended with the sound system called TAXI HI-FI, who made a mix in honor of Steely (whose real name is Wycliffe Johnson) who passed away in September. He was a well-known dancehall reggae producer known for his duo Steely & Clevie. This ended the first part of the show, made up of younger and less prestigious musical artists whose careers are still in the making. Next came the cream of the Japanese reggae scene crop!
SOUL REBEL PART 2:
This is the moment when we finally felt the big sounds arrive, with the group HOME GROWN, and specifically Tanco, leader, who made the chords of his bass sing. HOME GROWN is a prestigious name that all the amateur reggae artists in Japan know very well, and as might be expected, the group was, quite simply, beyond reproach. For those who don’t know, HOME G is made up of five members: Tanco (leader, bass), L-Watch (guitar), Mama-R (keyboard), Shinji Man (percussion) and Yukky (drums). Present at numerous concerts and festivals as a support band, and therefore capable of creating a number of incredible tracks, HOME G is a real gem.
The first performance of the musicians was with RANKIN TAXI, who made the audience laugh. Despite the rather bad quality of his videos, they can be found on the YouTube channel ROLMUSIC. RANKIN TAXI was full of energy, but he gave way to CHEHON, an Osaka musician, whose flow was unmistakable. With his popular hits, he's no stranger to success.
Next it was NANJAMAN's turn, with his guttural voice and then SUPER CRISS of FIREBALL was a surprise guest. The latter wasn’t on the list of performers, but the popularity of FIREBALL assured the great singer a warm welcome. With his usual class, CRISS played two or three numbers before the MIGHTY JAM ROCK, a trio from Osaka, arrived to set the stage on fire.
And yes, MIGHTY JAM ROCK was incredible live. “The three musketeers,” (also the title of their last album, which was released in July) offered pure dancehall moments and occupied the stage with great energy. JUMBO MAATCH, TAKAFIN and BOXER KID played as night began to fall on Hibiya. After, RUDEBWOY FACE made his entrance and was joined by NG HEAD, the spinning DJ from Osaka known for his ragga style and sound clashes.
After their performance, the two artists went backstage and H-MAN took possession of the place. An emblematic figure of Japanese reggae, this man has had many clashes with NG HEAD, mythical episodes that remain etched in the minds of Japanese reggae lovers. Despite this, H-MAN is a serious person: to see him outside of his performances, with his serene face, rugged looks, and a cigar in his mouth, he exerts an image of control over himself. In concert, his songs Futaiten and Dangan Tooku had a rapid flow, similar to the sound of a gun.
But SOUL REBEL truly entered into its last phase with MOOMIN. The singer created a special atmosphere with his “love” music, and his voice was a warm contrast to the artists that preceded him. The crowd entered into communion with MOOMIN as soap bubbles floated from the stage. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful images of the festival, illustrating a unity between the spectators and the artists.
The singer also did a collaboration with YOUNGSHIM and NG HEAD on the track Day by Day. It was then time for an artist familiar to MOOMIN—RYO THE SKYWALKER. The two men shared the stage to perform More Than Friend, from his last album Love-A-Dub Showcase. From the same album, RYO interpreted the title track Koko ni aru ima wo tomo ni aruki dasou with the same values as one of the most beautiful tracks from this DJ, EVERGREEN.
The end of the festival was truly a success, with a setlist that was more oriented to reggae music than dancehall. But unfortunately the end rapidly approached with the Japanese Dancehall Queen, PUSHIM. The voice of the queen was technically impressive. It resonated in Hibiya Park and left the audience speechless as they took her a capella performance to heart. She also played with the group C.A.M.P, the initials of which stand for CRISS (FIREBALL), Akane, MOOMIN, and PUSHIM. They interpreted the ensembles of Rock di Camp with a spirit all their own.
So ended the performances of the solo artists who, for the closing of the 10th anniversary of SOUL REBEL, gathered together onstage to form the family that is the Japanese reggae scene, which is surely one of the most lively music scenes in Japan today.
JaME would like to thank OVERHEAT MUSIC and the SOUL REBEL festival for the invitation.
Photo credits: OVERHEAT MUSIC, Hiroto "PHOTOWARRIOR" Sakaguchi