Yeah Mon, Old Skool Reggae Comes to Beijing

clive chin reggae chinese jamaican jamaica kingston randy chin beijing bed bar

Reggae producer Clive Chin hanging out with me (left) and a friend before the show.

Beijingers are proud that their city has produced China’s best rock and punk bands (Take that, Shanghai!), but reggae?

Yeah, mon. There’s the Chinese reggae group Long Shen Dao. There are the occasional Chinese Rastafarians hanging out in the old Beijing neighborhoods, Nanluoguxiang and Gulou (Think quaint, smoky bars with lots of crocheted caps and minimal heating).

And there’s the man who came to Beijing this weekend to spread the word about reggae: Clive Chin, the Chinese-Jamaican DJ and record producer.

On Friday night I met Clive at Bed Bar, where a big crowd of expats and locals had gathered to hear him play a set of old school reggae and ska.

“I’m a third-generation Chinese Jamaican!” Clive told the crowd, which responded with extended cheering. Clive said his father, famed record producer Randy Chin, had died without having the chance to visit China. “I’m here tonight for my dad,” Clive said.

Then he put on songs by the Skatalites and the Maytals, and everyone started dancing. As on the best nights out in Beijing, it felt like everyone knew everyone else. Even the Jamaican ambassador showed up and partied until the early morning.

It was Clive’s first time in China, and he was feeling the hutong vibe—the old courtyard homes, the grandmas hanging out and gossiping, the neighborhoodiness of it all. Beijing was a long way from New York, where he lived now, and even farther from Kingston, Jamaica, where he got started as a producer while still a teenager in the 1970s.

“When I got here, I said, whoa, this is Jamrock!” Clive told me. All the people on bicycles and riding carts in the hutongs reminded him of Jamaica, he said.

A few hours of reggae later, the police came to Bed Bar, the music was turned down, and Clive left the DJ booth to hang out elsewhere in the bar. For a while it seemed the night would end that way.

But then Clive popped his head in through a window, someone handed him a mic, and he started scatting and trilling over the music. The crowd roared.

Want to know more about Clive? Read a Q&A with him from my friends at the Beijinger.

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