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Interview: meet homegrown DJ collective Shanghai Dancehall

The homegrown DJ collective’s Kyle B. on why they’ll never stop pushing reggae music in China and plans for the summer

Photographs: Jyan Davis Neuvo and 田俊 (Shanghai Dancehall L-R: Mousetrap, Dubshottas, YOVNG VBEC GLOBAL, Shanghai Yard and Kyle B.)
Spinning roots, dub, afro, soca and more, homegrown artist and DJ collective Shanghai Dancehall have been pushing forward the city’s reggae scene since 2017. While the faces have changed over the years, the vision remains the same: ‘To share the music we love with the world, and help spread reggae and dancehall music in China.’ The crew have their next gig at C's on Saturday night (July 17), but before that, here the collective’s Kyle B. talks who they are, what they do and why they’ll never stop.

Tell us: Who are Shanghai Dancehall? What are you all about and where did it all start?

Shanghai Dancehall is a collection of international DJs and artists based right here in Shanghai, with a mission to spread reggae and dancehall music in China. It was started in 2017 by a Japanese DJ called Deejay Laobang, who was pretty famous in the city at that time, but the group has evolved several times as people move into Shanghai or leave the country. Basically, we’re a group of friends who get together to play music we love. Current performers include Dubshottas from Canada, Kyle B. from the US, Mousetrap from Japan, Shanghai Yard from Italy and Oggy from Japan. We also frequently feature singers, like hip-hop MCs YOVNG VBEC GLOBAL and Skinny OG and afro singer JAC 45, and other Shanghai mainstays Popasuda and DJ BO.

How have you seen the reggae scene in Shanghai evolve since you started out and where do you think it’s headed?

Reggae music is not an easy scene to be involved with in Shanghai. It’s always been an underground music with a focus on the culture and lyrical message. Shanghai club-goers are often into house and techno music. We’ve seen a great response from foreigners, and I do think Chinese fans are starting to pick it up as they learn more about music from around the world. Shanghai also has quite a few dance troupes, who will come out in force to try their moves during the faster-paced dancehall and afro sets. Though it has its ups and downs, we will never quit, we’re dedicated to the music and will continue to push it where we can.

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Where can we usually find you?

We usually play once a month at C’s Bar, one of the few places in the city that regularly supports underground music. We also play frequently at Street Noise and a few other bars around town, and will occasionally throw larger events at LOFAS. This summer we’re working towards a beach party outside Shanghai as well.

Beyond Shanghai, what’s the wider reggae community like in China?

Every city in China has its own crew, or small group of artists who are keeping the music alive. Beijing has a fantastic label called China Man Yard, the country’s first reggae label which features local and international artists. In general, we all support each other online by sharing music and news, and travelling to each other’s shows when possible.

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If you could only pick one, what’s the best gig you’ve done so far and why?

Late last year we did an event called The Link-Up at LOFAS, which was a true celebration of unity among the reggae scene in China. It had the whole Shanghai Dancehall crew, plus singers and DJs from around China, like General Huge, Zulu Bob, and Sistakilla.L.


You’re alone on an island with your decks and a single record. What is it and why?

Kyle B I end every set with ‘Truth & Rights’ by Johnny Osbourne, because it’s an easy way to cool everyone down; it’s the perfect vibe for any setting and the lyrics always stick with me long after the music stops, so I’d easily choose it for my desert island play. Dubshottas Buju Banton’s ‘Blessed’, because it reminds you to be thankful for the people you’ve known and that you’re blessed with the life you have.

You can catch Shanghai Dancehall performing this Saturday night, Saturday 17, at C's. Entry is free and the show kicks off at 10pm.

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