More power to Yumi

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Friday, November 16, 2018

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IN her best patois, Yumiko Gabe talks about her days “killing nuff soun” and “mash up nuff selector”. To the uninitiated, those are fighting words, but 'specials' and dub plates are the Japanese sound selector's weapons of choice.

Gabe, who has lived in Jamaica for over 25 years, is known in dance circles as SJ Yumi, head of Yumi Hi Power sound system which she started in 2004. She also hosts the weekly Reggae Wednesdays on the Sun City 104.9 FM radio station.

On December 8, she is back in action at Iration Ites Vinyl Series' Rising From The East Edition, to be held at Bamboo Fence off Windward Road.

The popular vinyl series returns after a four-year break. Though she has long discarded her clash gear, 53-year-old Gabe is looking forward to the event.

“I play everything — CDs, vinyl, or from the computer. But when I play the vinyl I feel the music more,” she told Jamaica Observer's Splash. “When I'm playing vinyl, I have to pick and choose the records before I go to the venue; you don't do that with the computer, so that is something else I like.”

Gabe has won numerous sound clashes in Jamaica, throwing down hard-core dancehall songs. These days, however, her selections focus on old school roots reggae acts like Tony Tuff, Michael Prophet, Prince Alla, and Barrington Levy.

The coarseness of contemporary dancehall influenced her change in sound five years ago.

“I prefer to promote love and peace now,” said Gabe.

She is part of a strong Japanese community in Jamaica. Like many of her compatriots, she came to the country through love of dancehall/reggae and excelled as dancers, artistes and, in her case, sound system selectors.

Gabe is from Saitama, a city on the outskirts of Tokyo. She started listening to Jamaican music during the 1980s when dancehall artistes began visiting Japan in droves and festivals like JapanSplash drew thousands of fans.

After establishing herself on Tokyo's reggae scene, Gabe began cutting dub plates for Japanese sound systems by Jamaican artistes including the I Three, Ken Boothe, Buju Banton and Burro Banton. She also cut her teeth as a selector at the Budha, a nightclub in Tokyo, before visiting Jamaica for the first time in 1991.

Though the Japanese were entrenched in the Jamaican dancehall market by that time, Gabe soon discovered it was not easy for a female selector from the Far East to make it here.

“Bwoy, Jamaica tough man! Mi haffi hustle, hustle, hustle! I go an' come until I finally stay in 1993,” she said.

Gabe has not done badly for herself, winning over 20 clashes against high-profile rivals. She is also proprietor of a guest house in Kingston, which houses a studio where she cuts dub plates by artistes for the Japanese market.

Gabre Selassie, representing Kingston Dub Club, Supa Nova (Dub School), SJ Fire Wayne (Echo One Sound System), DJ Marshmello, DJ DC (Changez Disco), DJ Naoto, and DJ NHM will also participate in the Iration Ites Vinyl Series.

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