One Love Jamaica Festival 2010 rocks steady in Yoyogi

Japan ‘hearts’ Jamaica

Courtesy of One Love Jamaica Festival

Japan has an ever growing love affair with Jamaica, and as a result the two-day, 6th annual One Love Jamaica Festival to be held in Yoyogi Park expects upwards of 40,000 revellers this May 8 and 9. Those who make their way to the festival will get a special chance to experience the inimitable cuisine and culture of one of the Caribbean’s most popular and iconic destinations.

‘The branding of Jamaica is outstanding in Japan,’ explains festival publicist Ryohei Kikuchi, of the strong interest in all things Jamaican in Tokyo, and the rest of Japan. Young Japanese with an affinity for reggae and patois perceive Jamaica as cool and fashionable. As such, the festival attracts lots of youths with rude boy posturing and dancehall queen aspirations, but as authentic as they appear some feel that they take everything but the burden – meaning there won’t be anyone firing gunshots in the air.

Despite the love, Kikuchi – who spent two years working in Jamaica– admits that while young Japanese may make pilgrimages to Jamaica’s roughest neighbourhoods just to learn the latest dances or how to master sound systems, in the end most (but not all) of these intrepid souls end up creating reggae for other Japanese. Kikuchi even points out instances where profitable reggae ventures have been launched that exclude Jamaicans.

The ‘Jamaican factor’ is so popular in fact, that even Diaspora Africans are known to adopt the brand to promote culinary ventures and even impress Japanese girls at the event.

Faux-Jamaicans and culture vultures notwithstanding, the massively popular event is promoted as a cultural exchange between Jamaica and Japan, and to support tourism from Japan to Jamaica. The One Love Jamaica Festival is one Yoyogi Park’s annual highlights – and the perfect remedy for any homesick Jamaicans in Japan, or Japanese pining for the sounds and sensations of Kingston. Here are one Tokyo Jamaican’s picks on what to see, do, hear, eat and experience at 2010’s One Love Jamaica Festival.

Bob Marley Songs Day

With typically wonderful weather and lots of sunshine, May was selected as the ideal time for the One Love Jamaica Festival as it also coincides with the commemoration of Bob Marley’s passing. To honour his memory, the line up includes a talent showcase of predominantly Japanese performers covering some of Marley’s unforgettable lyrics. Kikuchi says that Japanese in their 30s and beyond are especially fond of roots reggae (and for timeless music in general); with a message of peace, unity and love this crowd pleaser starts the festival on the right note.

Notable Japanese reggae artists slated to appear include Rankin’ Taxi, a pioneer Japanese performer who DJs in the Jamaican ragamuffin style, and Mi-I whose tunes ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Give Thanks’ are in heavy rotation on Jamaica’s Irie FM.

Though the showing of Jamaican acts at the festival may be small, but it’s definitely powerful. Coming from Jamaica to perform live on the One Love stage will be Omar Silk – sibling to one of reggae’s modern legends, Garnett Silk. Omar survived the deadly fire that claimed his brother’s life, and though some may expect that this would add a hint of tragedy to his music, his songs are full of vitality and spiritual consciousness.

Little Mountain Sound System

The best sounds of the festival are in the back of the park where a Japanese Rasta and a very talented line up of sound boys play the best of roots music. The selection of tunes is first-rate and the positive vibes will take you high – without the herbal refreshment.

Jamaica Village

Visit the myriad of booths at the festival to get a stronger sense of Jamaica’s cultural flavour; the items on offer are crafted by skilled artisans, and make perfect gifts or mementos. The bold red, green and gold colours – popular among Rastafarians – are not only symbolic but also are ideal accessories. Kids will especially love having their hair braided or getting up close with the unique toys.

The Embassy of Jamaica in Tokyo will also be on hand to offer more information about Jamaica’s opportunities for study abroad, and tips on the best places to see if you are planning a visit. The Jamaica Tourist Board will also be there promoting the island’s azure beaches and breathtaking sunsets, and other Jamaican charms – which can be seen in their commercials starring the world’s fastest man and Olympic gold medallist, Usain Bolt.

One Love Kitchen & Market

Make the most of your fun in the sun with hearty tastes and libations from Jamaica. Opt for authentic food made by Jamaicans and compare it with the dishes prepared by Japanese and – yes, Africans. Everyone’s interpretation is different, but still delicious. You’ll undoubtedly find jerk chicken everywhere but try something a little less cliché, like ital stew (perfect for vegetarians) – and don’t forget to wash it down with a Red Stripe beer.

Stage shows

The One Love stage has a schedule that includes Jamaican folk dances and performances by children, some of whom are of Jamaican-Japanese heritage. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about Jamaican history and dance at this event.

Live Painting and Art Village

For creative types, get involved with the art and live painting. Art offerings will include gallery-quality photographs, paintings and sculpture unique to Jamaica. Family friendly activities are also planned, getting kids to tap into their unlimited creativity Jamaican-style.

Reggae dancer showtime

After sunset, pum-pum-shorts-ready Japanese dancehall queens will descend on the stage like exotic nocturnal beauties to skin out, do the passa-passa dance and get all the men in the audience riled up. A must-see, though it may not be for the bashful. That being said, with the hot rhythms going around, even the most reserved of us might find ourselves shaking it along with the dancers.

Learn more about Jamaica

The One Love Jamaica Festival represents a singular chance to learn more about Jamaican culture beyond the music. Jamaica’s motto is, ‘Out of Many, One People’. The culture is rich and its people are descendants of many – including African, English, Scottish, German, Indian and Chinese – heritages. Jamaica may be one, but it’s made of many: get out to the festival and talking to as many Jamaicans as you can to feel the real spirit of One Love.

One Love Jamaica Festival 2010
Location: Yoyogi Park (Full details & map)
Date: Sat May 8-Sun May 9
Time: 10am-8pm (Note: The event will still be held in the event of rain)
Admission: Free
Website: www.onelove-jamaica-fes.org/
By Damion Mannings
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.



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