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* aural cavity located on the sides of the head for insertion of local music scene
The COMPASS Group, March 2007

Spreading The Vibe: Red-I and The Riddim Outlawz

Words and photos by Don Quan Translated by Annie Liu

Perhaps the most unique (and, likely, most authentic) artist on the island would have to be reggae singer Red-I. Along with his band The Riddim Outlawz, he delivers a captivating show steeped in the traditional styles of ska, reggae, dancehall and even jazz and Taiwanese folk.

Red-I was born in Taiwan, but spent most of his youth in Canada, where he was first exposed to Caribbean/West Indies music in the multi-cultural neighborhoods of Montreal. However, it didn't really sink in until his late teens. "As I got older, reggae developed a deeper meaning and feeling to me," he says. He learned his craft from several masters and legends of the genre, and then spent some years in Mexico earning his keep as a musician. Taiwan has been his home for the last six years.

The Riddim Outlawz are led by saxophonist/keyboardist Rintaro Masui (from Okinawa via Tanzania and London), and anchored by bassist Kinya Ikeda from Japan. Both are formally trained in jazz, but easily shift from ska beats to reggae grooves to jazz improvisation at the drop of a hat. Red-I is an engaging frontman, singing in several languages, playing rhythm guitar, toasting, improvising lyrics and, at times, vocally emulating a certain legend surnamed Marley. Their set includes reggae standards, original material, Aboriginal Taiwanese folk songs, and even pop covers performed reggae-style.

In conversation, and in performance, it's clear that Red-I has a very pro-Taiwan message to deliver. He is undeniably proud of his heritage and uses his music to spread this vibe: "When I came back to Taiwan after being away 32 years, everyone was speaking Chinese. There's no Taiwanese identity, no culture. Taiwan needs to have a voice; it needs to promote its identity internationally." Red-I may just be that voice.
The band performs monthly in Taichung and Taitung, and will appear at the Jakarta International Reggae Festival in June. Check out www.myspace.com/reditheriddimoutlawz for other dates.


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