Known as the country of heaven, the city of Chengdu sits in the province of Sichuan, southwest of China. Chengdu is the epicentre of Chinese rap music and where 28-year-old deejay Dexann Rose (DJ Dex) makes Jamaica proud with a mix of old and new Jamaican beats. Since moving there in 2018, the teacher by day at an international school enjoys local attention as one of the few Jamaicans in Chengdu. She is also the only paid Jamaican deejay on the local music scene. Rose was born into a family of comedians and music lovers in Mandeville. The masters of development and Gender Studies graduate credits her dad with her love for music.
“My father loved blasting music in our home. There was always some kind of old-school music in the background.” Her journey to China came out of a restlessness with self-comfort. “I wanted to grow somewhere else. Being home, I always had people to rely on. I was working at the Red Cross and planning on going to Columbia [University]. Then I saw this opportunity to teach in China on a website.”
Rose’s teaching experience has been as much of a learning experience for her as it was for local kids who had never seen a Jamaican in this part of China. Children have schedules that start as early as 7:00 am and end as late as 10:00 pm. The stress of top academic achievement on children saw government action taken to close training centres where children went for after-school activities. Balance is necessary, which is why Rose’s silver lining is her deejaying after a day of teaching.
Her music drubs a cross section of old and new Jamaican beats. Reggae is one of them. “The thing about reggae, is it’s feel-good music. Even if you don’t know what is happening, you want to be a part of it. The only music in the world that can do that is Jamaican.” Reggae is the second thing the Chinese associate with Jamaicans. Usain Bolt is the first. According to Rose, Chinese nightlife is divided into traditional and modern. Certain clubs play strictly Chinese music. The rest is westernised.
There is also a place in China that reminds Rose of home. The city of Sanya is located on the southern end of China’s Hainan Island. “Sanya is Jamaican culture on Chinese soil. People know Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Koffee. Jamaican artistes are known for their thought-provoking messages, which is why Rose hasn’t let go of her professional studies. She maintains those principles in her music.
“Gender and development are integrated into every factor of life. I’m taking feminist principles in my set. There are songs that I will not play because I think that the lyrics are harmful,” her tone definitive. “When people advertise me, they usually say ‘she brings the old with the new’. I want to be inclusive.” That’s the power of Jamaican beats on the streets of Chengdu and why DJ Dex is one to watch on the music scene.
To find out more about DJ Dex, please follow her Instagram account @dexann_rose