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Reggae music breaks cultural barriers

By Ji Xiang (China Daily)

15:11, June 05, 2013

Junior Tshaka's music is simple yet meaningful, full of observations on rights and wrongs as well as the state of the planet. (China Daily)

Swiss reggae musician Junior Tshaka is un-phased by the language or cultural barriers to his music in China.

"Reggae music is a universal music," he says.

He was in Beijing for the Sixth Mars en Folie Festival, a Francophone music and language event with artists from France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada, which toured 13 cities across China.

Tshaka's militant reggae style won him first place in the 2009 European Reggae Contest at the Rototom Splash in Italy, ahead of almost 500 other acts from across the continent. Since then he has played at festivals across Europe, gathering a loyal following of fans from France in particular.

The invitation to represent Switzerland at the Mars en Folie Festival was an opportunity for him to take his music to China, a country largely unfamiliar with reggae, for the first time.

"This is big, this is nice, to travel with the music is very good, this is a privilege," he says.

Although his style of music is unfamiliar with most Chinese he doesn't view playing in China as far different from playing in other parts of the world.

"This is a new people; this is like every time, just to play some music. Chinese people, or American people, or African people, it is the same for us," he says.

China is not the first time Tshaka has faced a language barrier. In fact, it is something he is very familiar with having come from multi-lingual Switzerland.

"In my country, the village just after my village, they speak German," he says. "We don't understand what is said by our neighbors, so this is usual for me, to break language barriers. Language is just a medium."

Tshaka's music is simple yet meaningful, full of observations on rights and wrongs and the state of the planet.

"This is the same message like when I am in my city. This is the music from my heart," he says.

"I just speak about some things that touch me. I want to sing some love, some hope, some positive future, some positive vibration. I don't know the Chinese people, so I don't know what to do, what to see, so I just see wherever I go."

Tshaka says his inspiration comes from nature, the television and newspapers. Many of his songs denounce world systems that he views as causing war and suffering.

Tshaka found the road to becoming a professional reggae musician long and hard.

"It was difficult, because reggae music is an underground music, so it is not easy to earn some money with reggae music in Switzerland or in Europe," he says. "But with a lot of time, with a lot of energy, with a lot of conviction, with the faith, with the years, this is possible. And now I do for five years, this is my job, this is so nice to live it, when your passion becomes your job, this is like a mission, like a point to touch, you realize it."

Tshaka's music strays from reggae at times into traditional, hip-hop and blues, which he played as a teenager, but it is always about music that "touches my heart", he says.

As for the future: He is open to any possibilities, but hopes his musical journey will last. "The future is so far away. I hope to travel a lot," he says.

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