Spend a day on the vibrant streets of cosmopolitan centres like London, England, and you’ll realize that—despite vehement claims to the contrary—Vancouver isn’t a particularly multicultural city. Sorry, guys.
For the last 10 years, Tank Gyal—an artist who prefers not to reveal her real name—has nevertheless been making sure that Jamaican culture gets the representation it deserves. Born to Slovenian immigrants and growing up in Vancouver, the DJ initially discovered reggae in the early and mid-’90s when “Murder She Wrote” by Chaka Demus & Pliers bounced around the airwaves.
After first hearing dancehall played live at a rave in Stanley Park (yes, you read that right), Tank Gyal decided to dedicate herself to a life behind the decks with Shabba Ranks on the turntables.
The mastermind behind Ting, Vancouver’s longest-running reggae and dancehall night, the DJ was soon invited to be the first lady of Vancouver’s groundbreaking Lighta! Sound crew. Now with performance credits all over the world, including Jamaica, Mexico, Switzerland, Miami, and Vegas, Tank Gyal is one of the city’s most in-demand exports.
Hamster enthusiast, mom of one, and Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise alumna, Tank Gyal is, by her own admission, a woman of many quirks.
Best gig ever
“Bass Coast Festival. I’ve been a performer at every one since the beginning, and I have so many great memories that it’s nearly impossible to pin down one. That said, I once did DJ at a female-only mud-wrestling competition. I think it was the second or third time the festival was being held, when it was still in Squamish. They set me up on a monster truck right next to the mud pit, and I played an all-female badass dancehall set about strong women, while people were fighting in the mud.”
Top track right now
“There’s a song that’s just come out called ‘Carnival’ by Randy Valentine, who’s a Jamaican-born reggae artist, and Solis, who’s a Cuban singer. It’s the first single off an album created by an Australian producer called Havana Meets Kingston. Jamaica and Cuba are so close to each other—they’re about 200 miles apart—but there’s really no relation between them. They both have a really rich history of music and dance, but completely different cultures. This Australian guy came up with the brilliant idea to combine the two together. It’s a very uplifting song that has a lot going on, and the lyrics are great.”
Song that cleared the dance floor
“The first time I performed at Shambhala I was pregnant, so I was playing a slower set of chilled daytime reggae. The band that was meant to be playing next came up and started sound-checking during my set, which was kind of annoying because they weren’t even trying to follow my beat. And then all of a sudden—I guess the organizers gave me the wrong finish time—they just launched into some really loud and cheesy progressive trance, just mid-song. I threw up my hands, backed away from the mixer, and gave up. That noise cleared my dance floor.”
Favourite Vancouver producer
“Self Evident. I have a very particular taste in music, and every track he makes is right up my alley. He has a very hyphy-ish, bouncy, hip-hoppy sound, and does a lot of tunes that have great vocals. He’s very humble and underrated, so I wanted to give him a shout-out.”
Oddest request you’ve ever received
“I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s pretty funny when people request an artist or a song that I’m actually currently playing. It’s happened quite a few times. People will say ‘Can you play some Vybz Kartel?’ and I’m like, ‘Sure—like the song I’m playing right now?’ I never want to be snobby with people’s requests, but it’s still entertaining.”
Tank Gyal runs Ting at the Waldorf every Thursday, and will open for Chronixx at the Commodore on March 18.
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays