Answer the call

Answer the call

Japanese couple pitches clothing to dancehall acts

Saturday, August 16, 2014

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Clothes make the man, so the adage goes. A Japanese husband-and-wife team hopes it applies to their line of casual wear which has been endorsed by some of reggae's biggest acts.

Kengo Fukai, 35, and his 39-year-old wife Tomoko are in Jamaica pitching products from their Answer Dyeworks company to dancehall personalities. They are also re-recording the famous Answer 'riddim' for a compilation album to complement their shirts, T-shirts, merinos, pants and hats.

Sizzla, Bounty Killer, Ninjaman, Chronixx, Yellowman and Stone Love selector Rory Gilligan have donned Answer's clothing which are manufactured in the Fukai's hometown of Osaka.

Kengo Fukai says their products are sold in Japanese retail stores. The company has been around for nine years and also produces compilation albums showcasing dub plates from top sound systems like Stone Love, Metro Media and Kilamanjaro.

"We use music to attract people to the clothes. Most of the people who buy (Answer clothing) love reggae," he explained.

According to Kengo, sales to date have been "so so", with the company's best markets being Osaka and Tokyo, traditionally Japan's largest reggae markets.

He grew up listening to dancehall acts such as Bounty Killer and Sizzla, and singers like Freddie McGregor and Beres Hammond. That was the 1990s when reggae was big among Japanese youth.

Kengo points to the decline of Jamaican pop culture in Japan as one of the reasons for the lukewarm response to Answer items in his country.

"The Japanese reggae market is not so big but the artistes, they always give us positive vibes so we can continue our work," he said.

— Howard Campbell

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