Spotlight on Asian dancehall 'queens'
BY SADE GARDNER
Monday, September 10, 2018
“Out of many, one people” stands as Jamaica's national motto, and the diverse ethnicities across society is a clear indication of its perpetual truth. As a matter of fact, if you should attend any dancehall session, you are almost guaranteed to see a huddle of Asian females decked in bright-coloured outfits taking on the dance floor as ardently as the dominant male dancers. While the idea of Asians in Jamaican society is not taboo (just stop by some wholesale shops downtown Kingston), their presence in the entertainment sector over the past few years has attracted criticism from some people. In his documentary, Dancehall's Asian Ambassadors, journalist Kaneal Gayle aims to provide a platform for four Japanese women in this industry to speak their truth.
The women are selector and producer Bad Gyal Marie, deejay Rankin Pumpkin, dancer Kiss Kiss, and disc jock Yumiko “Yumi” Gabe.
“You know, there has always been the talk of cultural appropriation and I wanted to give them a voice to show the audience their love for our culture and address these concerns,” Gayle told the Jamaica Observer. “For instance, Bad Gyal Marie co-owns Notorious International sound system with her husband; Rankin, she's not just a deejay, she's selling Jamaican merchandise in Japan; Yumi and Kiss Kiss are providing Airbnb services to Japanese people who come here and want to explore Jamaican culture. It's just allowing them to tell their stories.”
The film premieres in Canada at the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival on September 19, and in Trinidad and Tobago on the 22nd and 23rd. Gayle said the documentary was previously aired last August on Business Access TV and slight changes were made for the international screening. He hopes to have a local viewing next year.
Filming for Dancehall's Asian Ambassadors began last March and concluded in less than a year. Gayle directed and produced the work, which was shot between Kingston and Portmore, St Catherine. It was primarily self-funded with assistance from Business Access TV, where Gayle has a business report show on weekends.
“I like telling interesting stories as a journalist, and I believe it is our role to give people a voice and to document history and this is one way to do that,” he said. “There are other women whom I could have included, but these women kind of encapsulated everything Japanese women are doing in our economy.”
The documentary was inspired by a shorter film Gayle did in 2013 while working at CVM. He hopes this project will be an eye-opener.
“I hope it opens people's eyes about the power of Jamaican music and culture, and how easy it is for foreigners to fall in love with it and give up everything and leave their own country to come here and be involved in it and contribute to it.”
Gayle began his journalism career in 2008 and has since earned four awards from the Press Association of Jamaica, including a Special Award for a music report. He has also won a Jamaica Broilers Award for TV production and scriptwriting.