Take us back to the early days of Mighty Crown in Japan.
Sami-T:I was 16, 17 at the time. We were teenagers just getting into music. I started listening to hip-hop like Public Enemy, stuff like that. They had a party going on—which was a reggae party. We were teenagers we couldn’t even get into clubs. This person named Junior Dee who was a veteran reggae deejay used to be at the gate. When we seen him he used to be like “Alright, you guys can get in.”
Masta Simon: There weren’t much clubs. We come from a city called Yokohama. That’s where we used to hang out. That’s whereBanana Sizewere playing. They had man likeJunior Dee and Papa U-Gee. I got a lot of influence from them.
You guys went to English-language school, and then the States. Did your proficiency in both standard English and Jamaican patois help your success?
Sami-T: Simon went to California; I was the one who came to New York, it was 92. I really started hanging in the corners of Brooklyn and I was hanging in places like Flatbush, Church Avenue, just trying to learn the language because patois was a little bit different—a whole lot different—from English, y’know. I didn’t even know the wordbumboclaat, I thought that was a good word. [Laughs.]
Masta Simon: Well English is one of the major factors why we are ahead of a lot of the other rest of the sounds. Without English andpatois, language is like a barrier. You got to know how to speak, you got to know how to listen.
On the other hand, Ninja Crown, you’ve been to Japan many times now. Have you felt the need to pick up Japanese?
Ninja Crown: Well honestly, when it comes to Japanese language, I may know one or two words. But when you deal with music, I don’t have to know the language. They go off your energy and vibe. Reggae music is universal. If anything, I use Sami or Simon to translate.
The first experience in Japan was crazy. I didn’t know what to say, what to do. But Japanese people love the music—authenticfoundationdancehall music. They love that.
Now I’ve been to Japan countless times. It’s like my second home. I think I’m more popular than Sami and Simon still. [Laughs.]
So what happened during those first few years that you moved to Brooklyn? Where did you live?
Sami-T:I started living in downtown Brooklyn, I believe. I think it was 541 State Street. And then that’s where I kinda met Coji. The experience at that time was—I could say… incredible. Now. At the time it was a disaster, in a way. Because it was straightblackpeople neighborhood, right?Caribbean neighborhood and then you don’t even seeoneJapanese on the road. And I was like one of the few set of Japanese on the road. And they would be like “Yo Chin, Yo Jap. Come outta street! You don’t belong here!” kinda vibe.
And all these youth on the street bad me up. It was rough, really rough out there. But I was trying to get in the language. Well, Jah guide me through.
I’m still here. I coulda dead ‘pon the street. Cause ‘nuff shot a rinse dem time deh. Like a lot of gunshots busting up when I’m in the street. Bap!Bap!Bap! “Where shot a fire from?” It was real street shit.
Do you remember the first dancehall party you went to in Brooklyn?
Sami-T: It was theBiltmorewithStone LoveandAddies.It wasSupercat.It was incredible. I had two Heineken beer… right? I couldn’t go to my second beer! That was the kinda experience that me did have. It was my first experience with the sound system. Big speakers.
Addies used to have two eighteen-inch speakers with like a double scoop. I was just chilling and in front of the speakers… drinking one Heineken was coming like five just because of the speakers. I wasn’t even used to the sound system… just standing in front of the sound system your tee shirt start move.Boomp-boomp, boomp-boomp, with the bass. I was like bloodclaat… wah dis?
And I even remember myself fainting in the dance. Like “I feel sick now”… me go inna in the bathroom and lay down, ‘pon the corner, sweating and everything.“Jesus, why am I here, why did I come here?”
Then this youth, tell me like “You alright? You alright youth, Mr. Chin, you okay?” And it was a man from EarthRuler. Everything kinda connect now, Jah know? That was the time I first metEarthRuler.
So after I come out from my lickle [little] faint. And I was like giving thanks, like“thanks for trying to help me out.” They were like“What do you do? You play ‘pon a sound system?” And I was like “yeah, I’m trying to build my sound. My sound named Mighty Crown.”
So they invited me to their crib, and they were like “Can you spin?”And me start show them what me can do at that time… apprentice kinda vibe, right?. EarthRuler was one of the hottest sound in Brooklyn. They were like,“Tell you the truth, you nah mek it. You’re not on that level.”I was like“I want to play on the parties and stuff.”They were like, “I invited you to see just to see where you skills were at. But you nah mek it.”
But…look at where I am right now!! [Smiles]
When did you decide to become a sound system that clashes?
Masta Simon: I still remember one of the clashes in Brooklyn, at Biltmore. Addies and Bass Odyssey, for the first time.Squingywas there—actually Squingy was alone spinning. That kind of like changed my whole career, my way of thinking. I was like, “Yo I want to clash with these guys.” When I saw Squingy, I was like yo… I should deal with this the right way.
I said “Yo, this is really interesting.” Cause you never see this culture nowhere else. Not in Japan, nowhere. The whole sound system culture was so different. Especially the clash thing was so different. You had sound like Addies, ‘Jaro, Bass Odyssey. I was like “Yo, I gotta clash these guys, yo, we gotta beat them one day.” That was my goal back in the days, early nineties.
Once was your first experience with Amazura in Queens? Did it feel different coming from Brooklyn?
Ninja Crown:My first experience playingAmazurawas with a sound called King Agony, when King Agony went to World Clash.
Masta Simon: Agony went to World Clash? [Laughs]
Ninja Crown: Yeah. One thing about New York fans, they will cheer for you one minute and in a split second they will forget about you. I was nervous behind the turntables. Back then we weren’t playing CDs and laptops, we were playing dub plates. So you had to make sure the needle was right on the dubplates, precise.
Has Amazura become the new Biltmore?
Ninja Crown: Biltmore? Yes.
Masta Simon:It’s a different vibe. It’s a different space.
Ninja Crown:But it is the prestige stage for clashing.
Once you decided to clash, you had to start getting dub plates. When and what was the first dub plate you cut?
Sami-T: The first dub that I ever go voice was in ‘92, and that was in Brooklyn. I got my information from one of the shops in Manhattan. There was a guy namedReverand Badoo, he’s one of the Brooklyn artists. They used to have a Brooklyn restaurant. I wanted a Nicodemus dub. And they took me to a studio in East New York.Old Veteran,Bonanza, Sound Killer.To name a few.
Is there a story about getting a dub plate that really sticks out in your memory?
Sami-T: Wyclef is another story I can give to you. The first time I met Wyclef was when I clashed withRodiganin Connecticut. That was after we win World Clash.
Wyclef just step on the stage and hand him the dub; Rodigan had the link already. He just had a big song with Carlos Santana.“Ma-ria, Mar-ia…” It was a wrap.
Wyclef came to me after the clash. He probably felt bad. I was just sitting there and he said “I’m a big fan.” And I was like “Yo man, move yourrasclot…you just tek side!”
Any other tune I play, it just didn’t work….Dennis Brown,all the classics. It didn’t work. I was like: “Damn!”
Wyclef came to me after the clash. He probably felt bad. I was just sitting there and he said “I’m a big fan.” And I was like “Yo man, move yourrasclot… you just tek side!” But he invite me to his studio, which was Record Factory in Manhattan.
Eventually I told him: “Yo, I’m having a rematch with Rodigan coming up in Amazura. Now is my time. What’s up?
He hooked me up with a dub plate. Then it was my turn to give it back to Rodigan. It was acounteraction!
Masta Simon: We played it first before Rodigan. He was surprised we had it; that was his secret weapon.
Do the strong political messages in some reggae music about Babylon and the Western system resonate with Japanese fans?
Masta Simon: Hmm. That’s a delicate question. A lot of people just come to have fun. If you got a hundred people, you have a hundred minds. But you have a few Japanese artists who talk about the system: “Don’t be like the slavery of America!” cause of the World War II, and stuff like that.
We do a lot of charity work, like after the big earthquake. We talk about a lot of political things too, through music. Cause rebel music is part of reggae music.
Sami said he was often taken for Chinese amongst Jamaicans in Brooklyn. There is a Chinese community in Jamaica. How do they interact with the Japanese visitors who come for the reggae?
Masta Simon: Nothing tense going on. We got like Chinese background too. We’re mixed in a way; but we were raised in Japan. So we got different-different culture in our background too. That’s something that a lot of people don’t know.
Sami-T: Well, I think its like in Jamaica is that everyone is Chin. Period. They didn’t really know what Japanese or Korean or Chinese is. Like I might not know who is Jamaican or Trinidadian or who comes from Barbados.
I don’t really see Chinese people who live in Jamaica who go and party the way the Japanese do. They don’t fall in love with the music the way the Japanese do. Just like us—we just flew in there and see and go to the dances and lime with the Jamaica crowd. That’s a difference.
Masta Simon:But we don’t really mingle with the Chinese people who live in Jamaica. We might go to a Chinese restaurant, we talk, but we don’t flex with them…
Sami-T: ..and they don’t flex with us neither. We’ll be like“Wha gwan?”
And they’ll be like….“What do you want?”[Laughter]
But now a whole generation is coming up“mixed”. Half-Japanese, half-Jamaican; half-Chinese, half-Jamaican. It’s going to be interesting.
Masta Simon: It is.
To read more, click the link!
MARRIAGE CHINESE STYLE
“Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding” might not be playing in New York anymore,
but you can relive the nuptial good times—Chinese-style—at the Lucky
Rice Festival tonight. The cabaret dinner will include musical
performances by Broadway stars Dina Morishita and Welly Yang as the
bride and groom (the duo is an actual couple who met while performing
in Ang Lee’s musical adaptation of the “Wedding Banquet”), while
superstar chef Susur Lee and master chefs at Shun Lee will serve up a
wedding feast featuring eight auspicious courses selected to inspire a
long life together and prosperity. Sounds like a delicious appetizer
to wedding season!
The Lucky Rice Chinese Wedding Banquet
“Why do sheng nu happen now in China?” Wu asked. After a dramatic pause, she answered her own question: “It is a result of high GDP growth.” At this point, several women in the audience fidgeted, wary of an economics sermon, but Wu continued. “In the past, there was no such word as sheng nu. But today women have more wealth and education — they have better jobs, and higher requirements for men.” She reflected: “Now you want to find a man you have deep feelings for who also has a house and a car. You won’t all find that.”
She wasn’t telling the women they should want less, exactly. What she was really pointing out was just how much better today’s Chinese women have it. Thirty years ago, a marriage certificate was a passport into adulthood. “Until you married, there were no basic human rights. No right to have sex before marriage. No house allocated by your danwei [government work unit] before marriage.” Today those barriers have crumbled, with rising sexual freedom and a booming private real estate market. Why marry unless you find someone just right? “The future is different,” Wu predicted, waving her arms for emphasis. China’s big cities will be filled with sheng nu. “Those who can bear the shortcomings and sufferings of men will get married,” she concluded. “Those not, single.”
All this grand theorizing was not remotely what Sabrina, a slender 26-year-old with sexy librarian glasses, wanted to hear. “I wish she had given more practical advice about how to enlarge my social circle,” she whispered to me. Sabrina was there because she truly wanted to get married, and by her own anxious calculation, she feared she had about one year left. She had a graduate degree from a good university, held a respectable job in marketing, and was reasonably attractive. It had never occurred to her that finding an appropriate partner would be a struggle. Did I know any unmarried men? she asked. And if so, I should probably tell them she is just 24.
sheng nu- literally, “leftover woman”; derogatory term used to refer to women “past their prime” who are still single… over the age of 27/30.
I honestly have mixed feelings about the article. One is utter annoyance at the almost condescending way it is written- that the author (a white woman) would compare a speaker giving a presentation in this article to another famous white woman at all: why can’t women of color just be who they are?
Second, this line:
The singletons I interviewed in Beijing were anything but dowdy. At 5 feet, 9 inches, the slim woman who slipped into a seat at the table at trendy Opposite House cafe was, in fact, an utter knockout. Annie Xu has a strikingly angular face, large wide-set eyes, shoulder-length hair, and flawless skin.
there’s something in the wording that smacks of cultural assumptions—like why wouldn’t anyone want these women? THEY’RE GORGEOUS ORIENTAL FLOWERS!!!!
thirdly I feel as though she takes the problem to the women, instead of more deeply examining this patriarchal power structure that contributes to these derogatory terms in the first place.
A generation ago, when Chinese society was simpler, there were fewer choices. But today, with colossal economic upheaval — and a yawning chasm between China’s winners and losers — your spouse may be the largest single factor determining whether, in the words of one infamous female contestant on Fei Cheng Wu Rao, you ride home on the back of a bicycle or in a BMW. And that just crystallizes the problem: China’s educated women increasingly know what they want out of life. But it’s getting harder and harder to find Mr. Right.
excuse me, “simpler”? Simpler to who? To you? Take your attitude and shove it up your lily white ass because you clearly don’t understand the substructures that exist within the family dynamic of “pre-liberated and Westernized” China.
A Dance Crew surprises passengers after boarding of a Finnair flight to Delhi to celebrate India’s Republic Day on January 26th 2012.
One interesting thing that I have encountered: when I reveal that I am currently in a relationship, someone will ask, “Is he Chinese/Asian?” There is a degree of raciality from non-Asians, but the same can be said of Asian-Americans as well.
I agree completely. When I used to be extremely involved with the Asian community at my school and when I was immersed in the Asian community in my hometown, the first question out of their mouths if I mentioned I was seeing someone was if he was Asian. I apologize for that horrible run-on sentence.
There was also another reply to my original post about how race plays into physical attraction, which is the foundation of any relationship. My argument for that is WHY ARE PEOPLE SEXUALLY ATTRACTED/NOT ATTRACTED TO PARTICULAR RACES?
Why does my aesthetic value lie on a “different scale” than other people? Why is there a difference between being good looking and good looking for an Asian?
And again, the main point of that was that an “Asian fetish” goes beyond primary physical attraction. It lies in the stereotype that is chained to a particular race and gender.
I imagine African-Americans used to get this sort of thing a lot, where the expectation for relationships in general was that they would stay between the same race. There are still conscious attempts by creative media to normalize the idea of a white woman and a black man being together, for example.
In the same way, it’s more common to find white men with Asian women, rather than Asian men with white women. Perceptions of sexual attractiveness, mixed in with the traditional power status of white men in the world in general, has a lasting effect.
Like it or not, there is a difference between attractive for white people, for black people, for Asians, and so on. It’s affected by a whole slew of things: mainstream media, cultural norms, what we pick up as children that stay in our subconscious.
But it does change. It’s increasingly normal to see a black and white couple in media, and with that it’s increasingly normal in day to day life.
Regarding “Yellow fever” or the “Asian fetish” you can say that this sort of “fetish” happens everywhere. There’s a reputation that French men are great in the sack, that black men are hugely endowed, that Italian men are great lovers. Russian men love Turkish women and Turkish men love Russian women. Europeans love Thais more than other Asians, all over Asia there’s a preference among many Asian women for white men, even if only for a walking ATM.
It’s not great, not necessarily accurate, and can be outright harmful, but a lot of human biology comes with trying to figure out what makes a good mate. What makes humanity special in comparison to other animal species is our ability to create culture, ideas, history, and pass it on in collective knowledge. With that comes perceptions of other peoples. One way or another, we pass on what we think we’ve figured out for the benefit (or ill) of other people, and we store that information for when we might need it.
So when you, as a woman, meet a Frenchman, or an Italian, or a black man, or whoever, what flies through your mind are cultural perceptions of what society says about them, in addition to your own personal experience, your own skepticism, hopes, and biological attractiveness. You can consciously suppress those cultural perceptions, but they’re still there and have an effect in either direction on your decision to pursue them or not.
Fantastic commentary from Uncdan.
[Part of 4 posts responding to responses to this post.]
This was brought up by dagSeoul and fleetingbeat – the fact that there is domestic abuse in Korea and that it goes unreported. I’m extremely hesitant to make any statements about this issue simply because I know very little about it.
Here’s a UNHCR document on the progression of domestic abuse prosecution in Korea, which predictably shows that prosecution is hard but has come a long way. There’s not much about comparative rates of reported abuse or anything. And I doubt that a good comparison could be done, given how different attitudes towards the manhandling of other people in general is here vs. home.
I have nothing but very general anecdotes to say about this one. I’ve been making an effort at reading more novels and shorts stories by Korean feminist authors, and the repeated themes are inequality and double standards, abandonment, faithlessness and betrayal, dismissal and condescension… but I haven’t seen wife-beating so far. Of the two Korean people that I’ve discussed domestic violence and aggression with, both were of the opinion that a woman being hit even once warranted divorce proceedings (and for one of their families, it did). But that’s only two people. And both are quite young and quite progressive. So I really just don’t know.
The “silent domestic abuse” point is something I’ve heard quite more than a few times from both expats and gyopo classmates, though, so it must be rooted in something. What? Does anyone have any information?
Actually, unreported domestic violence isn’t silent nor is it invisible. And I didn’t write silent, I wrote invisible—having to do with mediated images and discourse that go uncritically examined in Korea. But sure, unreported rape, sexual abuse, incest, “date” rape. (I hate that term date rape. Rape is rape.)
This is not only a Korean problem. I wouldn’t say Korean violence. I wrote invisible violence in Korea. It’s late, and again, I’m not at all trying to insert my interests into your discussion, which I was very happy to see posted. But it’s an important distinction, and one I’d hope you’d consider. If you want me to explain a little more, I can, but tomorrow. Cheers.
Thursday, November 03, 7 – 11pm
Studio XXI, 59 West 21st Street
Last year, YPX 2010 brought nearly 300 of New York City’s young professionals together to celebrate Asian American culture, creativity and couture. This year, YPX 2011 celebrates cultural and community connections. The event will pose some big questions: what connects me to you? What connects us to the past? What connects the past to the future? The heart of the celebration will be the inauguration of the second class of M88 honorees: young Chinese Americans who have transcended boundaries, convention and stereotype on their way to achieving extraordinary success. Confirmed YPX 2011 honorees thus far: YPX 2011 also marks the kick-off of Digital MOCA: an extension of the MOCA experience onto the immersive, always-on web. Spearheaded by MOCA Trustee – and cofounder and CEO of TheKnot.com (now XO Group) – David Liu, Digital MOCA aspires to be the virtual fabric for the community, connecting us all in our increasingly digital lives. And featuring: Tickets purchased before 10/24: $50 for MOCA members, $60 for non-members
Tickets purchased after 10/24: $60 for MOCA members, $70 for non-members
Tickets purchased at the door: $88
Last year, YPX 2010 brought nearly 300 of New York City’s young professionals together to celebrate Asian American culture, creativity and couture.
This year, YPX 2011 celebrates cultural and community connections. The event will pose some big questions: what connects me to you? What connects us to the past? What connects the past to the future?
The heart of the celebration will be the inauguration of the second class of M88 honorees: young Chinese Americans who have transcended boundaries, convention and stereotype on their way to achieving extraordinary success.
Confirmed YPX 2011 honorees thus far:
YPX 2011 also marks the kick-off of Digital MOCA: an extension of the MOCA experience onto the immersive, always-on web. Spearheaded by MOCA Trustee – and cofounder and CEO of TheKnot.com (now XO Group) – David Liu, Digital MOCA aspires to be the virtual fabric for the community, connecting us all in our increasingly digital lives.
Tickets purchased before 10/24: $50 for MOCA members, $60 for non-members
“For me, being Korean American is a process of building your identity and constructing who you are. It’s also an opportunity. It’s difficult for a lot of people to build a sense of self because they’re stuck int his netherworld between two communities. But at the same time, if you’re able to bridge that chasm, find a solid sense of self that takes advantage of both cultures, acquire a perspective that allows you to integrate into both cultures while still being able to step outside of them, it makes you a fuller human being.” - Yul Kwon, May 21,2008
This not only applies to cultural tensions but all types of relationships. What always bothered me is when people say “that’s just the way it is” when truly, it never is. Relationships are not always constant. I feel that it is through genuine listening, empathy, and being open to persuasion that preserve and strengthens these bonds, not how much we posture or agree. And it’s up to us to bridge the communities together to reach a mutual understanding and develop a more whole picture.
From CYJO at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery at Washington D.C.
Props to Pip for taking this picture. I appreciate it very much, bro.