Fri, Jul 17, 2009 - Page 14 News List

The root of the matter

By Alita Rickards

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The space between popular nightclub Room 18 and lounge bar In House in Taipei’s upscale Xinyi District (信義) is an unlikely spot for a reggae bar. But with a street patio, dance floor and stage, Roxy’s newest venture — Roots — is pulling in more than the expected crowd.

“A lot of the clubgoers only know Room 18 and Lava,” said Skaraoke front man Thomas Hu (胡世漢), whose band played at the opening party last Friday. “This gives them something else to check out.”

The grand opening also featured Taimaica Soundsystem (台買加環繞音效), and both bands played to a packed house.

“I couldn’t see the floor. There were so many people,” said Hu. He feels having a reggae bar in a posh area is a good opportunity for the scene.

Black Reign’s Oliver Harley, aka Lion, who was also at the opening night, agreed, but added this caveat: “It can have a positive effect with what is happening with reggae,” he said.

“But it’s got to stick with the roots and make it real reggae, provide a space for us [Black Reign], High Tide, Skaraoke, Wailin’ Soul …”

His concern is that while the upscale crowd may spend more money, they may demand that the club water down its music with hip-hop, a genre Harley believes “has been murdered.”

Harley said there is a two-tier system for every musical genre and this results in a lot of DJs and bands “playing Top 40 for fashion” while the real music stays underground. Because “reggae is so close to the underground roots” there is a danger of it becoming a fad and fading out.

“It’s a ballsy thing he’s done,” Harley said of Roots’ owner Ling Wei (凌威).

Promoter Alyson Schill said Roxy DJs Jonny Marr (馬奎元), Joyce (李菊華) and Fei Wen (周斐文) have been specifically trained to this end, and Wei said in a previous interview he is not interested in having any hip-hop played in his establishments except at Roxy 99.

Roots, located at 90 Songren Rd (台北市松仁路90號), is open 24 hours a day.

The drinks menu features classic Caribbean rum cocktails and blended fresh fruit drinks.

Burgers, fries and deep-fried appetizers are served around the clock, with a menu of Chinese dishes available for lunch and dinner.

The food prices range from NT$100 to NT$350, with drinks from NT$200 to NT$300.

To promote the Chinese menu, on Sunday at 4pm the club is offering a free brunch buffet for members of the Roxy Roots Facebook group who RSVP.

There is currently no entrance fee, with DJs nightly spinning reggae, two-tone, ska, dancehall, Calypso and roots, and live shows are planned twice a month.

The decor is colorful, with red walls, and a red, yellow and green ceiling. A giant mural of Bob Marley graces one wall, and potted palm trees are scattered around the long, narrow room.

Low sofas and tables are positioned on an L-shaped platform that goes around two sides of the dance floor. Long tables with bar stools line one side. Ambient lighting adds to the atmosphere.

The patio has a view of both the street and the stage and is a comfortable place to watch — and to be watched.

“A lot of people don’t think that something other than hip-hop or house can work,” said Schill.

“Only [jazz bar] Brown Sugar has been able to penetrate [the market], but from what I’ve seen over the past couple of days, everyone loves it.”

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