There are people who will travel across cities for their passion and interests. And there are those who go further, will travel across countries, continents, and cultures for their passion. DJ Daiky is one of the latter.
In my head, I can’t imagine two more polarized cultures than that of the Caribbean and of Japan. But the Caribbean culture has found a surprising home in Japan. There is a huge following and popularity for reggae and dancehall and a more recent some would say growing popularity for soca and carnival. There are quite a few Japanese who will fly to Trinidad for carnival annually. So when I found out that there is a Japanese DJ who is currently residing in London who is all about the Caribbean culture, I was intrigued and had to find out more. We meet at his club of residency The Dogstar in Brixton, London.
Tell me a bit about you. Well I was born in Japan, grew up there went to high school and everything. When I was like 22, I moved to Canada for three years, then moved back to Japan for two years and now I am here. I’ve been a DJ for about 8 years now.
How did you become a DJ? Just playing in the beginning. I started listening to reggae, Japanese reggae first when I was in high school. There is Japanese reggae. Some friend I remember, we’d left high school. And at the time he made me listen to this new type of music, Japanese reggae. To me it was new. Since then I listened to Japanese reggae. After high school, my friend, he would DJ and I played with him and that was the beginning. And I couldn’t stop from there.
I was curious about reggae music, where did it come from, what it is saying? I didn’t know about English or patois, nothing at the time. So I thought that ‘Ok if I am going to do this music, I am going to have to go to Jamaica and learn English. After one year I decided to move to Canada cause I thought that this is not going to work if I stay in Japan all the time and playing in Japan and I don’t know the real music. I wanted to learn the roots and culture. But I didn’t go to Jamaica straight because I wanted to learn English first so I went to Canada.
That is a pretty big step. Was it a hard decision to make? It was really quick. I thought ‘Ok reggae is from Jamaica. Ok I’m not from there, I’m Japanese I don’t know what they are saying. Let’s learn.’ Go to Canada, learn English, stay in a Caribbean community. Yeah that’s how.
And London? Well going to Canada, it was easier to get the visa [laughter]. America was hard. I knew there was a Caribbean scene there. And at the time, I liked the Canadian and American scene more that the UK scene at the time. I played three years playing in Canada. There were times I would to some real basement parties or parties and the security would say ‘Oh I think you are lost’ or ‘Your party is next door’. And the promoter would have to say ‘No he’s playing here’.
And you’re here at the Dogstar in Brixton, London. Well I’ve played at the Dogstar since January or February. Trinigladiata and Serocee and others, Rum ‘n’ bass… Serocee called me one day in January and said ‘I’m playing in the Dogstar in Brixton, I want you to come play’. I played and since then everything started. Then the manager called me and said ‘Do you want play regularly?’ so now I have a residency.
What is DJ Daiky’s style? I just play for the people. I play everything. There’s a story to the music. I can make people sing. Sometimes I just play the intro and they start singing, or cut off the music and they sing. Those are my favourite moments.
Is reggae and dancehall your specialism? Yes, bashment dancehall reggae is my base. But I can play other genres as well. Soca also is a big part of my music as well now; soca, hip hop, because Canada is a big country for hip hop.
Was it hard to please the crowd when you first started? Yes of course. My first play in Canada was horrible, first half a year. I struggled a lot. It’s not only about mixing, it’s not only about selecting. You have to play the right song at the right time for the right people. That’s what I had to learn. I learnt a lot about lyrics. When I was in Japan playing I was only thinking about mixing. But over in Canada, I learnt no matter now good your mix is, people don’t dance sometimes. You have to change the vibes.
What was the biggest difficulty for you in terms of music? The language, the culture. I mean Japan… in general they dance.. but not like wining and stuff. It’s different in our culture. And also, for reggae, smoking ganja in Japan is illegal. So I had to understand the culture and language.
Have you been to any other Caribbean events since being here? Yes I just went to the Rooftop Soca last week. And Comicon carnival. I should say that Comicon carnival was a highlight for me as well. I played for different types of people and it was fun.
Have you been to Jamaica yet? Yes I have been three times. And how it you find it? It’s totally different. When I first went to Jamaica, it was 2011, 12. Japanese people were there. I mean Japanese DJs started going in about the 90s if not earlier. So the Jamaicans were used to Japanese. I hear the real patois, the music, the ganga. [laughter]. I remember playing at a party in Jamaica and people were enjoying the music. There was one man who could not see me but hear the music. When he came through the door, he was very surprised and say ‘Ah you dat play dat?’ [laughter]
Let’s talk about Japan for a bit. How would you describe Japan? I think it is a polite country. We are very polite. We are a little bit shy but when you get close to us, we are fun, especially when we get drunk.[laughter]. We love food. Obviously surrounded by ocean so we get fresh food. We love different cultures as well, so when you go to Japan you get everything, everything you can think of. Tokyo is like New York. We are very curious about other cultures. And when we love something, we really love it. That’s why there are hard core hip hop fans or hard reggae fans. But they aren’t many who listen to everything. There are people who go to Trini carnival, they play steel pan.
Is there a big audience for reggae in Japan? Yes. How did that come about? Do you have any idea? I think the sound system Mighty Crown was the key for Japanese people to get to know about the music. They used to do like big festivals; 30,000 people in a festival of reggae music in a stadium. Some of the artists from Jamaica would come over. I’ve seen Damian Marley, Cocoa Tea, Shabba, Beenie Man all in Japan.
I’m curious, is there a black community that you know of in Japan? No, I don’t think so. There is no one area. Especially in my area, there is a navy base. And there is a street called Dobuita Street where there I keep parties. There are American bars. And when they come of the ships they want to party.
Have you seen a change on the reggae and soca seen in Japan recently? It’s differently definitely these days. Obviously, Jamaica carnival is growing. In a regular party. I used to play about 20% soca. But I can go 50% now. People know about soca music now. Soca is getting bigger.
Thinking about you and your career so far, what has been the highlight for you? My biggest crowd was Cinco de Mayo, it’s a Latin American festival in Japan with thousands of people. I also had regular parties in Japan for a year. It was a pretty big success. We have 300-400 people ever month.
When you say we, who do you mean? Me and my crew in Japan; the DJs and photographers and people who support me. I am going back in September.
When you are not DJing what do you do? I dunno, Music is my life. I’m always playing, thinking about music. I have been to a show Aladdin, eat, talk to my friends. I have travelled a bit. I love the festivals in the UK. But I am Djing all the time, making music.
If you weren’t a DJ what do you think you would be doing? Umm farming, my family are farmers.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with? I would like to collaborate with Japanese artists but I’d like to bring over some Trini artists as well. I’d like to bring Japanese artists here or Canada. I’m not from Jamaica, I’m not from Trinidad but I love this culture.
What do you want to get out of being in London? In London I think I am surrounded more by people who are creative. I’ve made friends here who took me to Trinidad during carnival and I’ve attended parties with top DJs and artists and I played at a party. Trinidad was a good experience. I think I just want to learn more.
What are your plans for the future? I will be doing a festival in my home town Miura Japan. I will be playing not only reggae, but soca. Everything that I have been doing, I want to show them in Japan. But when I do something in Japan, I have to adjust to Japanese people. I am collaborating with some people in the local matsuri festival to bring a fusion of Japanese food and Caribbean food and music. I want to keep my culture going as well as bringing in the Caribbean culture.
Music brought seeming contrasting cultures together and DJ Daiky in his passion for Caribbean music is a perfect embodiment of this fusion of cultures. He displayed great courage in leaving everything he knew behind, moving to a new country to learn a new language, new styles of playing, new styles of living. All for the love of our Caribbean culture, whilst retaining a passion for his own. I have every confidence his festivals will be very successful and he will continue to be one of the informal ambassadors for the Caribbean culture. Our Caribbean music has found a place in the land of the rising sun. Japan.
DJ Daiky is currently playing at the Dogstar in Brixton, London, England. For more information about DJ Daiky, please visit Daiki djdaiky shimozato on Facebook and djdaiky_japan on Instagram. All images used with the authorsation of DJ Daiky.