Panama's dub masterFriday, February 26, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Considered dancehall/reggae's fastest- growing market, Latin America's calendar is packed annually with Jamaican artistes. One of the music's point man in that region is DJ Chiqui Dubs from Panama.
The dreadlocked 35-year-old wears several hats — booking agent, sound system selector, record label owner and recording artiste. This week, he was in Jamaica shooting a video for Come my Way, a song he recently did with Voicemail.
The single is his second with the dancehall duo. Their first, Selfie, was released in 2019.
According to DJ Chiqui Dubs, Selfie did well in Panama, Colombia and Costa Rica. He expects the follow-up to do even better.
“ Selfie was a more Afrobeats beat… Come my Way is more of a fusion with dancehall an' Afrobeats so we can reach more people, like in England, Canada an' Latin America,” he told the Jamaica Observer, in Spanish-tinged patois.
DJ Chiqui Dubs has also collaborated with roots artistes like Exile di Brave on Remain The Same. He said it is important to have a Jamaican connection to his songs, to make it more palatable in Latin America where dancehall/reggae has a huge following.
“In Panama, reggae an' dancehall after our music is big. Di music is big in Colombia, Guatemala, Chile, Costa Rica an' Mexico but in Panama, it's bigger 'cause we create reggae an' dancehall in Spanish,” he explained.
Because Panamanian artistes have been 'translating' Jamaican dancehall songs in Spanish since the early 1980s, old-school acts like Yellowman, Major Mackerel, Johnny P, Peter Metro, Chaka Demus and Flourgon are still revered there. In fact, DJ Chiqui Dubs books several of these performers in Panama through his agency, Dubz Reggae Production.
He also books Beenie Man, Chi Ching Ching and Popcaan for shows in other Latin American countries.
Born Jean Alexander, DJ Chiqui Dubs was raised in the capital Panama City on indigenous Latin music but remembers steady radio rotation of dancehall music in Panama. It was not strange to hear a local artiste doing a Spanish version of Echo Minott's What The Hell The Police can Do, among other songs, during the 1980s.
While reggaeton erupted in other Latin countries like Puerto Rico, Panamanians maintained their love for Jamaican artistes, as well as homegrown acts who did Spanish interpretations of dancehall songs. In the last 10 years, Jamaican performers like Charly Blacks and the producer Rvssian have had massive hits in the region, prompting leading players like DJ Chiqui Dubs to increase their involvement with 'yaad' artistes.
Whether as an artiste, selector or booking agent, he believes he has an obligation to blend the cultures.
“It's very important 'cause I grew up with di reggae music, so dis is what I really an' truly promote as a culture in every country I go,” said DJ Chiqui Dubs.
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