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Observer senior reporter

MARK Kenny, executive producer of Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall, is describing comments made by Japanese runner-up Rankin Pumpkin as unfortunate. The artist said her poor performance in Saturday’s finals was due to racist remarks and threats.

Rankin pumpkin

“I am disappointed that she would even take that line. She was in the competition for over 14 weeks and never once did she come to me or any of the other producers on the show to say that she was having this experience. All the contestants were treated the same in respect to travel, stipends and accommodation, and we never had any word on this from her or her team. So I am a little slow in believing all this took place,” Kenny told the Jamaica Observer.

Kenny, however, said the cultural difference could have played a role in what she took from what was said to her.

“The banter with her and Skatta [Burrell] happened organically and made for great television. However, nothing was done without being discussed. It was explained that this was being done in good humor, and no offence or disrespect was meant. She played into it, even appearing as a samurai warrior on one episode, and never said she was offended. The cultural difference also played a part as someone from the audience may have used the word “kill”, but in this context it would not mean literally, but rather lyrically on stage, which she may have misunderstood,” he explained.

Skatta Burrell

Skatta Burrell

In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Rankin Pumpkin said, despite her easy-going exterior, the competition proved a challenge based on the way she was treated by fellow contestants and one particular judge.

“It seems very easy in the competition looking from the outside, but very, very tough inside. [There were] many racist comments from audience and contestants. Also one of the judge of the competition. I was very surprise how I was treated as a Japanese citizen. It seems as if they don’t want any other citizens to be in their competition. In some point I wanted to quit more than once, but my Jamaican producer African Symbol say don’t quit.”

“I was surprise because Japan is one of the biggest supporter of reggae music in the world since 1979 when Bob Marley introduce to us. Most of reggae concert that held in Japan, such as JapanSplash etc, they are all Jamaican artists and entertainers.

“We don’t understand what they are singing because we speak fluent Japanese, they sing in patois… but we still enjoy their music when they performing with a lot of happiness and love. We open our heart and give love to all Jamaican artistes and entertainers.

“So I was shocked of what I received in the Jamaican competition,” she said in her statement.

Her Jamaican manager, African Symbol (Desmond Harvey) concurs that the threats affected how she performed on the final night.

Mark Kenny

Mark Kenny

“We were all backstage and, at one point, she was taking pictures with some of the fans. She then come to us and say she don’t feel like performing based on the racist remarks and how people come up in her face and make threats. We had to encourage her, and because of that she just go on stage and try something. The song we rehearse have five verses and she only did about one and a half. If you watch the performance, you can see it in her facial expression that she was not in it.

“I have known her for the past 17 years. She does this for the love of reggae music. She is a graduate from university in Japan and also studied at a University in Long Island in the United States. Her parents want her to come and work in the family business, but she just loves reggae music…. she is not doing this in Jamaica for the money, it’s all about the publicity and exposure as an artiste,” he said.

African Symbol also firmly believes that the racist comments came out of the foundation laid by one of the show’s judges, Skatta Burrell.

“Him really generate a certain kind of bad vibes which people in the streets pick up on. This could have an impact on the music he produces and how well it does in the Japanese market, as they are really about supporting their own people.”

Rankin Pumpkin is scheduled to appear on Powerful Women and Men Perform for Charity, which is set for the National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew, on Sunday.


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