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At the end of April to the beginning of May 2024, RED I SOUND visited Japan for their JAPAN TOUR. Red-I, a pivotal figure in the Asian reggae scene, was at the heart of this tour. During his visit, we had the opportunity to sit down for an interview at a café in Shinjuku, Tokyo. In this interview, we delve into his musical career from its beginnings to his current activities, and explore his influence on the reggae scene across Asia. By touching on Red-I's passion and vision, we uncover how he continues to shape and impact reggae music.

Let's start at the beginning of your career. How did you start listening to reggae music?

Red-I: I discovered reggae music thru Fm radio stations.. I would hear it randomly, they would play hit songs like “Pass The Dutchie” by Musical Youth , “A La La Long” by Inner Circle, “Tease Me” by Chaka Demus and Pliers but at that time I was really into bands. Back in ‘97, I was really young, maybe around 15 or 16 years old. My band back then wasn’t reggae; it was more rap metal, kind of like Rage Against the Machine. In the Philippines, it’s always been a band scene, never really a sound system reggae scene. So that’s where I started, back in ‘97. I was also into Band and skateboarding, which was very popular in Japan, representing street culture.

What was the band scene like in Manila during those years?

Red-I: The band scene in Manila was vibrant and diverse. There were many underground bands, and it was a mix of genres. You'd see heavy metal, Hip-Hop, Hardcore, Punk and even ska bands performing in the same events. The scene was very much about live performances and the energy of the crowd. I was part of a rap metal band, which was influenced by the likes of Rage Against the Machine and 90’s Hip.-hop . Skateboarding was a big part of our culture too, blending seamlessly with the music scene.


So, when did you transition to reggae music?

Red-I: Around 2002 I started 2 side projects, a band called Pure Natural which was hip-hop-reggae inspired and Down Boy Down, an electronic down-tempo trio. I was an Mc in both bands and did some drum programming on DBD. We started to incorporate reggae influences in those early days. At that time, reggae was already popular in the Philippines but not very deep. You'd hear Bob Marley everywhere, especially at the beach. In the 90’s bands like Tropical Depression, led by the legendary Papa Dom, Coco Jam and later on in early 2000s Reggae Mistress & Junior Kilat, were well-known but still underground. Right now we have more than 100. Reggae bands in the Philippines. My transition really picked up when I went to a rave party featuring Goldie back in 1998 and Aphrodite In 1999. It was my first time experiencing a huge sound system, and the heavy bass lines with reggae samples blew my mind.
How did the rave party experience impact you?
Red-I: The rave party experience changed my perspective in music coming from the band scene. I remember it vividly, my friend Allan & Edmond invited me to a rave where Goldie was playing. I was used to live bands, so seeing a DJ control the crowd with just vinyl records was mesmerizing. At that time I was always interested in Drum & Bass / Jungle music - the energy, the bass, and the toasting over the tracks was something completely new to me. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of music.

How did you further immerse yourself in reggae and sound system culture?

Red-I: In the early 2000s my friends and I would dig through second-hand shops for records. We also started making beats at that time, We mixed & sampled many kinds of genres but I’ve always gravitated towards reggae . By around 2007 , I got into dubstep, which heavily influenced our events. We started hosting an event called Dubplate in 2008 with my partner PJ from LA. PJ, a.k.a Don P who I just met that time , He had a deep collection of reggae records and a passion for the sound system culture. Our events gained popularity because of their unique blend of reggae, dubstep, and other bass-heavy genres.


Tell me about the founding of Irie Sunday.

Red-I: Irie Sunday started in 2010 at B-Side, a venue in Makati, Manila. It became a beloved weekly event, creating a family-like community and introducing many people to reggae & Soundsystem culture. We featured a mix of reggae roots, dub, and modern styles, making each event a journey through reggae music. It started as a small gathering but grew significantly over time. We had regulars like Residents DJ’s Don P, Soulsteppa, Papa Dom from Tropical Depression (R.I.P), and T Cash and Masta T from Big Answer Sound, a Japanese reggae sound system crew. Later on Rastaro and Norris King joined as regulars. All selectahs and bands were integral parts of our events.


How did you connect with Japanese reggae musicians like Papa U-Gee?

Red-I: During our Dubplate events back 2009 I met Takashi a.k.a T Cash and Tatsuki a.k.a Masta T, Japanese guys who have been living in the Philippines who loved reggae music. They were studying English in Manila and brought a rich collection of records from Jamaica with them. They became part of the Irie Sunday as resident djs. We also organized the Asian Link-Up with the help of Papadom back in 2011, the gathering brought together artists from across Asia. This cross-cultural exchange enriched our events and strengthened regional reggae connections. That's where I met Papa U-Gee, a well-known Japanese reggae artist, we invited him to perform at that event. He came back to the Philippines several times after that.

Did you build a reggae sound system during the pandemic?

Red-I: Yes, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally had the time to build a proper reggae sound system. I had always wanted to do it but lacked the knowledge. Over the years, I learned from friends and experiences, and during the pandemic, my friend and I built it together. My friend had all the power tools we needed, and we spent weeks crafting it. It was an amazing project, and now we have a proper sound system to use for our events.

What are your future plans for Irie Sunday and promoting Asian reggae?

Red-I: We plan to take Irie Sunday on the road, using our legendary Red-i Sound mobile truck to host events in various locations. We want to create pop-up reggae festivals and spread the unique sounds of Asian reggae globally. We're also focused on supporting and producing local artists, helping them achieve proper sound system quality in their recordings.

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Any Asian artists you want to recommend?

Red-I: There are many interesting artists in Asia. For example, Smiley Song from South Korea is a great artist and producer. Srirajah Rockers from Thailand are another amazing band. In the Philippines, there's Good Leaf (Live. Dub. band) and Lady I, a talented singer with roots in the legendary band Reggae Mistress. We want to help them get a proper sound system sound in their recordings and spread their music worldwide. Another rising talent is Juan Clavier &. Threeky, a producer who is making waves in the local scene.

How do you see the difference between the Asian reggae scene and the European reggae scene?

Red-I: The main difference is the support. In Europe, there's a lot of support for reggae, which helps it thrive. In Asia, it's still growing, but the sound is unique and interesting. The ethnic influences in Asian reggae can be very fresh and appealing. When Europeans hear it, they often find it intriguing and different. The support here is slowly building, but it takes time. We believe it can become big with the right timing, support and exposure.

Your passion for reggae is inspiring. Do you have any advice for aspiring reggae artists in Asia?

Red-I: Stay true to your sound and keep pushing. It takes time to build a scene, but with dedication and passion, it's possible. Connect with others in the community, learn from different influences, and don't be afraid to experiment. The future of Asian reggae is bright, and there's a lot of potential here. It’s also important to understand the technical aspects of sound and production. Quality recordings and live sound are crucial for making a strong impression.



That’s incredible insight. Lastly, can you tell us more about your upcoming projects or events?

Red-I: Sure! We're planning a series of mobile Irie Sunday events across different cities. We’re also in talks to collaborate with artists from various Asian countries to create a compilation album that showcases the best of Asian reggae. Additionally, we're organizing workshops to educate aspiring artists about sound system culture and production techniques. We also have vinyl and digital releases lined up for OTO Records, Red-i Sound , and Dubplate Pressure. We’re really excited about these projects and look forward to seeing how they can help grow the reggae scene in Asia.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey and insights.

Red-I: Thank you! It’s been great talking about my passion and the future of reggae in Asia