Caribbean reggae men help revive Japan

Coral King reports for Trinidad’s Guardian.

Reggae music has been described as music that emancipates the soul, frees the heart of shackles, and uplifts the mind. These are only some of the expressions used to describe a music that was born in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, and taken to far-flung corners of the globe by exponents such as the late great Robert Nestor Marley, Peter Tosh, and the illustrious and pioneering Jimmy Cliff, who is still with us today.

One of the places in which reggae music has found a home is Japan. So it was no surprise that members of the fraternity of reggae music and a throng of their fans journeyed to York College Performing Arts Centre in Queens, New York, in a venture to raise funds to bring relief to the thousands of victims affected by the recent earth quakes, tsunamis and the associated nuclear incidents which came in the aftermath of these natural disasters.

The show was dubbed Reggae 4 Japan, and this unprecedented benefit concert brought together members of reggae music’s family, all with one sense of purpose—to raise funds for humanitarian relief for Japan. The profits from the event, which was put on by Japanese sound system Mighty Crown and their management Irish and Chin, were donated to the American Red Cross—Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Efforts. The artistic line-up included a mixture of singers of classic reggae, as well as those who performed the more trendy, dance hall reggae. Some of the performers represented the cream of the crop of reggae music, among them Freddie McGregor, Tarrus Riley, Maxi Priest, Alaine, Tanya Stephens, Capelton, Etana, Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, Gramps & Peter Morgan, and Fire Ball (Japan’s No1 dancehall reggae group).

All of them delivered electrifying performances to a sold-out audience, made up of the young and not-so-young. Fans were able to consume a most delicious fare of music, which placed a strong emphasis on the drum and the base. Maxi Priest, the evergreen singer of reggae ballads, summed up most succinctly the feelings of the artistes who made the concert a success when he said: “Japan is like home and family, as I have been going to Japan since the mid 80s. I have a lot of close friends in Japan and know people who are directly affected by the disaster.

“Japan has done a lot for the reggae industry, so I am unquestionably involved with Reggae 4 Japan because of my connection to that place, and also for the sheer love of humanity.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Tanya Stephens, who remarked: “The disaster which hit Japan geographically, affects all of us socially. The Jamaican music industry has benefited enormously from the patronage of the Japanese reggae community, and we are too intertwined for the recent events to not be seen as a shared experience to grow from. “It’s an honour for me to be a part of this re-growth as the affected areas regain their footing, and Japan becomes an even greater nation than before.”

The producers were very grateful for the tremendous patronage, which made the show one of the best reggae concerts to be staged in New York, in recent times. It was also felt that the event once more brought greater public attention to the situation in Japan as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.

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