Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 14 News List

Black Reign, the heartbeat of dancehall in Taiwan

By David Chen  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Black Reign International will have people dancing to Caribbean beats tomorrow at The Wall. From left to right: General Young Blood, Taili, Fyah B, Lion and Katzu.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF BLACK REIGN

The job of a Jamaican sound system, according to Taili of Black Reign International Sound, is to “keep people dancing all night.” The Taipei-based group intends to do just that tomorrow night when it presents Squeeze, an all-night dance party at the Wall (這牆) with Japanese reggae DJs Big H and Yahman.

Black Reign was born out of the O-Brothaz Sound System, which was started five years ago by Oliver Harley, aka Lion, a Jamaica native, and Taili, who grew up in Paris and is of Martiniquan descent. A chance encounter on the streets of Taipei brought the two together, and a mutual passion for mixing Caribbean beats led to their partnership.

O-Brothaz enjoyed reasonable success, filling rooms with as many as 600 people. But Lion and Taili wanted to take things further and look beyond Taiwan, so they recast O-Brothaz as a record label and production studio and created Black Reign, expanding into a collective of four DJs from the Caribbean and Japan.

The group includes DJs General Young Blood of Jamaica, Fyah B of Belize and Katzu of Japan. Together their sound covers a wide spectrum: dancehall, roots, souk, and Calypso, and even hip-hop and R ’n’ B.

“Everyone adds their own style to the sound system,” Lion says, which “adds to the dynamic” of their shows.

In the Jamaican sound system, there are two main roles: the “selector” or DJ, and the mic-man — who often talks over a record like the MC in hip-hop. The mic-man is “the comedian and the preacher,” Lion says. “He makes [the party] lively.”

Black Reign’s members often switch roles as selector and mic-man, depending on their set and, more importantly, the mood of the room. This is where the art of the sound system comes in: both selector and mic-man have to adapt on the fly to keep the crowd engaged and dancing.

Performance notes

What: Squeeze Reggae Party with Black Reign International Sound and DJs Big H, Yahman and New Super from Japan

Where: The Wall (這牆) at B1, 200, Roosevelt Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路四段200號B1). Call (02) 2930-0162 or got to www.the-wall.com.tw for more information

When: Tomorrow at 11:30pm

Tickets: NT$350 admission, includes free drink

On the Net: www.myspace.com/obrothaz; www.myspace.com/blackreignintlsound


“People react very fast,” Taili says. “The BPM [beats-per-minute], the mix — everything is important…[you have to watch your] technique.”

In Jamaica, the “dancehall” was originally a public space where a sound system played music for the neighborhood. The sound system was often the prime source for new music, Lion says. “It introduces music faster than radio or CDs.” DJs sometimes bring recorded music straight from the studio to the dancehall, and dancehalls are often the first to hear the latest from well-known artists. “We have Sean Paul [a popular reggae and dancehall artist] songs that haven’t even been released,” Lion says.

Black Reign’s shows are designed to lure in audiences, then spark further interest in reggae — “we give them something they know, then something they don’t know,” Lion says.

But despite the positive responses Black Reign receives from its shows, finding a venue cna be an uphill battle. Lion relates a conversation he has over and over again with club owners.

“Do you play hip-hop?”

“No.”

“Do you play techno?”

“No.”

“Do you play deep house?”

“No … we play reggae.”

“Huh? What’s that?”

Fortunately, places like The Wall welcome Black Reign, and the group says it will start tomorrow with “good, heavy dancehall beats” to get people off their feet. Later, DJs Big H and Yahman of Tokyo will take over. Lion says the two are pioneers in Japan, which has seen its own reggae scene explode.

Another reason not to miss the show is the Whoaa Girls, whom Lion and Taili call “the official dancehall queens of Taiwan.” (Dancehall moves are considered a separate art — in Jamaica, a new move is introduced every week, according to Lion.) At the show, the Whoaa Girls will be showing off their latest dancehall moves.

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