African Symbol returns home from Japan tour

Observer West reporter

Thursday, August 30, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Legendary Montego Bay sound system African Symbol returned to the island recently following a five-week tour of Japan.

The sound system left local shores for the Asian continent on July 4 to accompany female deejay, Rankin Pumpkin a Japan native who lives in Jamaica.

The sound system played the opening act for Rankin Pumpkin at various venues including Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Kobe, Yokokuska, Okinowa, Hokkaido, Gifu, and Yokohama.

Desmond Harvey, owner of African Symbol, expressed his pleasure over Japan's warm reception to reggae music.

But the highlight for his leg of the tour, which ended on August 15, was to see about 12 indigenous ninjas among patrons at the Yokohama venue.

“The Japanese love reggae music and them love African Symbol sound. Me even see real ninjas come take een the sound,” Harvey said.

African Symbol came to prominence in the late 1970s to early 1980s, but was ridiculed by contemporaries after Harvey, who is an electrical engineer, crafted speaker boxes from round metal drums.

“They (metal speaker boxes) gave a good sound, but sound system operators say they were not playing with no drum pan sound, and artistes even make joke about drum pan sound on dub plate,” Harvey recalled.

This prompted him to “wheel and come again”. This time he assembled speaker boxes from ply boards, using 20, to build a column, eventually reaching five columns Harvey recalled that at the time, African Symbol was the biggest sound in the Caribbean.

“When we rebuild, African Symbol could not play indoors; we reached 100 boxes. Is outdoors we had to play,” he reminisced.

Rankin Pumpkin, who is now touring rural sections of her homeland spreading reggae music, is scheduled to return to the island in October.

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