Roots, rock, reggae
By Aric Queen (City Weekend)
Updated: 2007-03-14 10:31
It was bound to happen; the question is why it took longer to start
than some of the other musical genres that have saturated China's eastern
cities. Granted, rock will always equal cool, electronic will always sell and
jazz will always be sophisticated, but in a place so rich in communal
gatherings, not to mention knee-deep in folk tales, why has reggae taken so long
to catch on? Scratch those dreads no more¡ªit's happening with the arrival of
three time Grammy winner Ziggy Marley in March, and it's bound to be the first
of many "buck ups."
"[China has a] rich culture, great history. It is a
great historical country to mankind. China is relevant to the history of human
beings. I am honored," says Marley of his upcoming shows in Beijing and
Shanghai. Marley's appearance comes on the heels of Roger Waters as the first
big acts of 2007, but how will the P.R.C. react to Jamaica's most popular music?
"Looking at Japan and how it's caught on to reggae with their own Japanese
reggae artists, China is definitely next on the list of reggae's Asian circuit,"
says MC Mojo, a Shanghai performer and one of the forces behind the popular
"Back to the Roots" series. "You can even listen to ads on the radio with
tropical West Indian sounding melodies and beats." Which brings up another major
catalyst for the Jamaican movement here¡ªthe love of all things "urban," meaning
that teenagers trading their "NY" cap for a multicolored "Rasta knit" might not
be that far away.
Any look at this addictive sound will always
conjure up two artists: The first being the obvious, the original Rasta man Bob
Marley. When asked about the legacy of his father, Marley hopes people will
"remember him as a messenger of creation who came to enlighten people and spread
positive vibration." The second great reggae master who comes to mind is Jimmy
Cliff, who penned it all best in "Reggae Nights" with this: "There'll be people
comin' from the north and south and east and west, so you better look your best,
man. Now, lightning' strikes at eight, so you better not be late for this
rub-a-dubbin', rockin', jammin', fun, fun, lovin', yeah." And next month, we'll
be able to watch a legend in his own right perform (the second Ziggy Marley show
for this writer, who after seeing him headline "Sunsplash '91" in Jamaica at the
age of 14, sought out the only establishment in Texas that would allow a skinny
white kid to get "nappy dreads"). "Pay attention to Santa Davis, our drummer,
and Sticky Thompson, on percussion, these are two legendary Jamaican musicians,"
says Marley of his band.
But how is reggae, in its infancy, being
accepted to date in China? "It is still a small scene," says Beijing based DJ
Mael, who's been spinning dub reggae in all of China's major cities for the past
few years, "with not much support yet. Aside from the hype coming from young,
cool cats, reggae is still a respected musical genre." The question remains
though: What happens after Marley's final steel drum has been packed away? Will
the Kingston sound resound in the Middle Kingdom? "The vibe is here and I think
with better communication and more regular major events the scene could grow
real fast," says DJ Mael.
Being on the cusp of something new is the most
exciting draw, and with the initial movement of one of the world's most highly
embraced musical genres into China, we're all in for a ride; in other words,
"people get ready."
Ziggy Marley Shanghai Concert
Date/Time: 7:30pm, March
Location: Yun Feng Theatre, No. 1700 Beijing Xilu
(RMB): 480, 380, 280
Booking Hotline: 021-62172426/62173055
|Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours