September 25, 2023
Featuring Pecker, Asuka Ando and Little Tempo.
Our 10 essential series sees VF and friends of VF dive into our favourite labels, artists, genres, and scenes to pick 10 essential albums, EPs or tracks for any collection.
A new compilation from London-based reissue label Time Capsule Records is offering a window into the largely overlooked world of Japanese reggae. Tokyo Riddim 1976-1985 seeks to “capture the moment J-reggae entered the broader public consciousness” by exploring the merging of Japanese city pop with the imported sounds of reggae, lovers’ rock and new wave across the ’70s and ’80s.
Ahead of the release of the compilation, Time Capsule boss Kay Suzuki joins us to share his 10 essential Japanese reggae albums.
Masahito “Pecker” Hashida
Favourite song: “Kylyn”
Pecker is one of the most prolific percussionists since the ’70s. He met and hung out with Bob Marley in Tokyo in 1979 before taking a group of Japanese musicians (such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Minako Yoshida, Shigeru Mukai) to Tuff Gong and Channel One studios in Jamaica to cut two Japanese reggae records: Pecker Power in 1980 and Instant Rasta in 1981, alongside Sly & Robbie, Augustus Pablo and Marcia Griffiths. He is one of the very first Japanese musicians who went and recorded with local musicians like this. This track is taken from the later Instant Rasta album, but Pecker Power is also a great album.
Chew Kosaka Sings
Favourite song: “Music”
Chu Kosaka worked with Haroumi Hosono and Tin Pan Alley and released a string of his own solo albums, including one of the country’s most iconic rock albums, Horo, in 1975. He toured intensely after the album and needed to have some relaxed time, so he went to Hawaii to record this album, Chew Kosaka Sings. The singer mentioned that his favourite album at that time was Jimmy Cliff’s House of Exile and this is one of the very early attempts at reggae riddim, played by Japanese musicians. Very interesting– it’s in our compilation too.
Favourite song: “Tsukikage No Nagisa”
This is the first track on our compilation and discovering this track for the first time, made me decide to create this compilation. It was totally out of the collector’s radar, but this is such a unique style of Japanese lovers’ rock and sounds like nothing else!
Favourite song: “Zanzibar Night”
Actually, we licensed one of the other reggae songs she did in her first album, but this is also incredible. Both albums were produced by Masanori Sasaji who was a member of the new wave band Mariah. Mr Sasaji said Compass Point Studios’ [Chris Blackwell’s recording studio in the Bahamas] production had a massive impact on the Japanese music community and you can clearly hear it in this.
Swing For Joy
Favourite song: “A Love Song (feat. Determinations)”
The third album from Osaka jazz-rock pop duo Ego-Wrappin’, featuring “A Love Song”, backed by Osaka’s long-running band Determinations. Okay, it might be more like ska or rocksteady than reggae, but it’s so good, I couldn’t resist!
Favourite song: “After The Rain”
Mute Beat was the very first live dub band in Japan, formed in 1981. All of these tracks are instrumental and you can hear various influences all in the form of the band’s unique sound. This particular song is an oddball, but my favourite from this great album.
Favourite song: “無能の人”
Little Tempo is a 9-piece reggae/dub band featuring steel drums and they are still active in the Japanese live music circuit. I think it’s very well made.
Mitsukaze & Green Massive
Chikagai No Hitobito
Favourite song: “August”
Another current talented singer and musician with a distinctive dry sound texture. Sang all in Japanese within a discography that is highly sought after and hard to find. A great roots-sounding band.
Favourite song: “Konya ga tropical”
Asuka Ando is a rising star of the modern Japanese lovers’ rock scene who released multiple 7″s and two solo albums, as well as being featured on many other Japanese reggae projects in the last few years. Her popularity grew steadily in Japan. This track is so cute I wish everyone understood her lyrics!
Reggae Disco Rockers
The Whistle Song
Favourite song: “The Whistles Song”
Reggae Disco Rockers is another active modern Japanese reggae band, formed in 1996. Their record label Flower Records is another long-running independent label that releases so many great reggae/lovers’ rock cover 7″s to this day.
Time Capsule Records’ Tokyo Riddim 1976-1985 is available to pre-order now.
On October 8, Time Capsule will host Tokyo Riddim 1976-1985 Launch: A Sonic Dive into Japanese Reggae at Total Refreshment Centre with a listening session on the QUAD:raphonic speaker system and a discussion between Kay Suzuki and former VF editor Anton Spice. Find out more here.
Read more of our ’10 essential’ lists here.