Redemption Songs
June 25, 2019 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Chinese Jamaican music producers helped turn reggae into a global sensation—one that would eventually reach all the way to the country their ancestors had left behind. A longform comic on the fascinating, intertwined story of China and reggae [via mefi projects].

The transcendental riddim of reggae was born in revolution exactly 50 years ago. The signature sound of its golden age was built by Chinese-Jamaicans, hakka migrants who’d set sail from the port of Guangzhou as indentured labour.

Leslie Kong, ice-cream maker and record label owner, was the first person to record Bob Marley, and launched the careers of everyone from Toots & the Maytals to The Wailers. Patricia and Vincent Chin set up VP Records in the late 60s, a formidable roots powerhouse that took reggae, dub and dancehall global.

It would take three decades, however, to reach their former homeland. The wait was worth it. In a strange mirror of the ferment that produced the genre, the word-sound-and-power of reggae has found a strange, powerful calling in China today – as one of the last surviving, thriving, form of protest music in a tightly-controlled state.
posted by Bella Donna (22 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
This is great! It feels almost like Samurai Champloo, but actual history. Also I should be watching MeFi projects more; thanks for that tip too.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:25 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

You are oh so welcome but I cannot take credit. I found out about it from two MeFites in the MetaTalk thread asking to hear from members of color (which I am not, so I was reading only). I am on my phone and having problems linking but the two users are anem0ne and Tha Contender. I forget to check MeFi Projects; clearly, I’m missing out.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:51 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


awesome post and project. I learned things!
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:58 PM on June 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

You learned them courtesy of MeFi’s own beijingbrown. Apologies for no link but there’s one in the project post. Should have included the creator in the original post. My sincerest apologies for the oversight, beijingbrown!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:01 PM on June 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

The saw-gashed record/CD phenomenon wasn't unique to China; there were markets in Australia in the 90s/00s selling steeply discounted brand-new CDs with the same incisions in the cases; these were unsold stock from the record labels. Was this not a phenomenon in the US/Europe as well?
posted by acb at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2019

yeah, we called em cut-outs
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:07 PM on June 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

posted by lalochezia at 5:12 PM on June 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is too good!
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2019

This is great! Such a detailed and loving history. I love projects like this that, with the combination of pictorial storytelling and audio, are specifically made for the internet
posted by latkes at 6:52 PM on June 25, 2019

The Hong Kong International Reggae Ska Festival 2019 looks like it's predominantly Hong Kong bands, but mainland China will be represented by Jado (Far East Lion.)
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:09 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I saw this on the metatalk thread as well and I'm happy it has made its way here. Can't wait to dig in.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:09 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Kinda wished the posters who were talking about it in MeTa had the chance to make the post themselves.
posted by cendawanita at 8:42 PM on June 25, 2019 [35 favorites]

[Couple comments removed; I agree with a request in there to keep this from turning into a discussion here of a user in another thread's comments. There's a complicated intersection of things going on with this post, of which see (but unless you're explicitly within the parameters of that post, please don't contribute to) the discussion starting around here in this current MetaTalk post. I don't want to kill the post because it's about cool work by beijingbrown and deserves to be seen regardless. If folks need to have a more general audience discussion of the situation, probably best to do so in this other MetaTalk thread.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:25 PM on June 25, 2019

beijingbrown this is super cool, thanks for making it!

On a practical note, is there an active reggae scene in Hong Kong and where would one go to check it out if they happened to be in town say, next week?

posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:31 PM on June 25, 2019

beijingbrown did a terrific job!

Like latkes above, I also liked the choice to intersperse the various music examples throughout the comic, so you could listen to different songs as you scroll through - it made great use of the possibilities enabled by an online digital medium.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:25 PM on June 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

This why I loooooooove MetaFilter.
posted by ouke at 2:20 AM on June 26, 2019

This is so cool.
posted by spitbull at 2:53 AM on June 26, 2019

Here's a relevant song, from the 1975 Lee Perry compilation album "Truth and Wizdom":
Easton Clarke · Mr. Phang, Mr. Wong, Mr. Chin

posted by crazy_yeti at 7:06 AM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hey, thanks for reading everyone! Just wanted to add that this comic is a work of synthesis, building on amazing reporting and research done by, among others, Christina Xu, Beimeng Fu, Dolly Li, Meng Ren and Josh Feola.

There's a YouTube playlist with some more of the songs and groups mentioned in the comic. I don't know too much about the reggae scene in Hong Kong, but definitely check out Heavy Hong Kong to see if they have any events on, or Minh Club! Shanghai's Jado played there, and they have great dancehall nights once in a while.

This video about KAWA, the Yunnan reggae band in the comic, is one of my favourite things.
posted by beijingbrown at 4:04 PM on June 26, 2019 [19 favorites]

beijingbrown did a terrific job!

Yes, this is great!
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 PM on June 26, 2019

Just adding one more voice of appreciation, beijingbrown. I really enjoyed it.
posted by ambrosen at 1:08 PM on July 1, 2019

> There's a YouTube playlist with some more of the songs and groups mentioned in the comic.

I was listening to the playlist again and really want to single out "The Ant" for being a bop. Digging the dizi(?) flute solo too!
posted by rather be jorting at 6:01 PM on July 2, 2019

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