The video of Chiaki Lida dancing to Freezy’s ‘Split in de Middle’ at Club Cactus in Tokyo, Japan caused a stir and bounced around in St. Lucia where the singer of the song is from. It also made the local TV news in St. Lucia. For those who didn’t know the Japanese listened to soca or had a carnival, they were stunned. And watching her and her friends dance live to soca surprised the hell out of me but also made me proud. Look at the Caribbean effect! Chiaki is one of the coolest ladies I’ve met; the first to come to welcome me to Japan and asked where I was from. I knew she was an international dancer who has traveled to Trinidad and London to perform but I guess I wanted to find out more about her really. Just how did she get into soca? I sat down with her in the lobby of our hotel in Kochi to find out more about this lady. She could speak English. I only knew two words in Japanese (that’s a disgrace really). But we spoke and I learned about her.
How long have you been dancing? I loved dancing from three years of age and I started learning to dance from the age of 16.
What kind of dancing was it? At first, it was hip hop dance. After that I was interested in dancehall, learning by myself from video and You Tube and other DVDs. After that I studied ballet from 20.
When did you start dancing soca? I knew soca music from 18 years old and I was very interested in soca music and just loved the sound, the music and I just wanted to dance with the songs.
Have you been to Trinidad carnival before? Yes 2011 and 2012 with Legacy.
What do you like about carnival? My soul is free. I feel free in carnival.
You dance all over the world. Where have you danced? Jamiaca, I performed in Jamaica one time and in Trinidad two. It was a chutney event. Other places, in London. But I have been to New York and LA to learn dancing.
What is your favourite music? Dancehall? Hip Hop? Soca? My favourite music is dancehall and soca.
What is your favourite to dance to? Dance to? I cannot choose. If you had to choose one. Choose One? [laughter] I cannot. If I had to choose… I really love soca music but my favourite artist is Vybz Kartel. Dancehall. I think so.
Have you been with the carnival band in Japan for many years? Just for two years.
Why is the carnival culture growing in Japan? I think carnival culture… is similar to our Matsuri culture. Have you ever been to Matsui? Matsuri is Japanese festival. We wear the kimono and dance along with music. The vibe I think. Matsuri has the same vibes as carnival. Music is very different, but the vibe is the same.
Why is the carnival in Kochi, not Tokyo? Ah because Kochi was the beginning, first carnival culture, we call it Yosakoi culture. Around 15 years ago? I am not sure many years ago, Kochi city wanted to make this a sight seeing spot. They thought about how to do this and made the Yokasoi carnival. But Tokyo city doesn’t need to do that. It has many tourists going there.
Will you be going to Trinidad next year? Yes, I will be playing with Fantasy.
Do you want try any other carnivals? Yes I want to try Toronto carnival, London. I am interested in Brazil carnival too. But the time is… Trinidad carnival, Brazil carnival, same time.
What do you want do in the future? In future, I want to try to perform more over the world with soca music, with Caribbean music, dancehall. I want to think about the Japanese Caribbean music scene. Make it bigger. Because Caribbean music has good energy. But sometimes Japanese are so quiet. I think many Japanese people don’t enjoy life, too much work, too much worries. And soca music, Caribbean culture can make our life more interesting.
In these international troubling times, Charlottesville in the US for example where the colour of one’s skin can incite hatred, violence and murder, Chiaki shows us something beautiful; that you can be from an entirely different culture, be halfway across the globe from that culture, look different, but have a love for that culture, its music and its people. Our Caribbean music and culture knows no boundaries and instead of hate, has inspired love. If it could always this way….
For more information on Chiaki lida, please visit Chiaki lida on facebook and chiakiida_jp on instagram.