Reggae in Taiwan: Jamaican dancehall icon Sister Nancy makes a visit to the island

Appreciation for Jamaican music in Taiwan continues to grow with Sister Nancy's show in Tainan on Dec. 2

Promotional poster for Sister Nancy in Tainan (Image: I & I World Parties)

Promotional poster for Sister Nancy in Tainan (Image: I & I World Parties)

TAIWAN (Taiwan News) – Taiwan may not be the first place people think of when they think of reggae music, but the genre appears to be gaining popularity slowly and steadily across the island.

The community of reggae music lovers may be small, but it is growing, and the island geography and laid-back atmosphere of Taiwan, which are reminiscent of Reggae's birthplace Jamaica, make it a perfect place for the seeds of reggae music to be planted.

In fact, they were planted long ago, and are now bearing some excellent fruit.

This coming weekend, reggae promoters will be taking one more stride to popularize the music throughout Taiwan, when reggae and dancehall icon Sister Nancy makes a visit to Taiwan to perform in Tainan on Dec. 2, accompanied by a full line-up of DJs and bands.

Sister Nancy is most popular for her 1982 hit "Bam, Bam" and the show in Tainan is being hosted by the I & I World Parties music promotion group.

There is every indication that reggae is on the rise in Taiwan. In June last year, another incredible reggae artist, Pato Banton from the UK and active since the 80s, made a visit to Taiwan for a few shows thanks to the folks at Tiger Mountain in Taipei.

The Sister Nancy event is also coming only two weeks after a recent festival called "Camp de Amigo" held in Taoyuan, which hosted performances by two incredible reggae bands from Japan, one called Tuff Session, and another called Marleys.

Japanese band Marleys performing at "Camp de Amigo" in Taoyuan Nov. 18 (Image: Duncan DeAeth)

Japan is a wonderful example of how reggae music has developed in Asia, and today Japan boasts some of the best modern ska and reggae bands in the world. Given the exuberance of reggae lovers in Japan and Taiwan, and their geographic proximity, hopefully a stable network of venues, performers, and promoters will begin taking shape here in Taiwan.

The biggest example and the closest reggae has come to Taiwanese mainstream is, without a doubt, the popularity of the aboriginal artist Matzka of Paiwan ancestry, who is known throughout Taiwanese society. Matzka has always claimed that traditional Paiwan music is his greatest influence behind his reggae-infused music.

Taiwanese reggae artist Matzka (Image: CNA)

Such a statement actually illustrates one aspect of reggae's beauty, which is its simplicity and versatility. The steady bass drops and rhythmic drums of reggae inevitably resonate with local indigenous drum-centered styles all over the world.

Further, the socially conscious message that has been a hallmark of the genre since its birth in the late 60s and early 70s Jamaica, along with its adaptability make reggae a style with a truly global appeal.

To speak of reggae and ska in Taiwan, one local band that must be mentioned and given proper respect is Taipei's very own Skaraoke. They are, without a doubt, a crucial element in developing a wider appreciation of the genre here, offering an exceptional blend of classic ska, rocksteady, and reggae styles.

Taiwan ska heroes Skaraoke (Image: Duncan DeAeth)

In addition to Skaraoke, people interested in ska or reggae should keep an eye out for the Reggae Riddims, a new comer on the scene, but with members that are veterans of the Taiwan reggae scene.

The world of Jamaican music is a massive one, with a variety of sub-styles and a never-ending flow of feel good vibes coming from talented artists all over the globe.

Jamaican music lovers in Taiwan will welcome Sister Nancy to Taiwan this weekend.

With any luck, it will be a boon to the scene and more artists from Japan, Europe, America, and of course, Jamaica will continue to visit, while Taiwan continues to cultivate its own local talent in the genre.

Sister Nancy's performance in Manila, PHI. Nov 26. 2017 (Image courtesy of I & I World Parties)