Tag Archives: Japanese

Känguru

One of the first albums, that comes to mind, whenever I hear of the German so called Krautrock scene, is Guru Guru’s Känguru (1972). With its humorous cover, its heavy psychedelic jams and experiments, but also its catchier blues vibes. Känguru is a brilliant album, and a fine example of Kraut from one of the very early Krautrock bands.

Formed in 1968 as “The Guru Guru Groove”, and debuting in 1970 with UFO. Guru Guru is still active to this day, although many personnel changes have been made along the way, and different musical challenges have been explored. The driving force behind the band is drummer and vocalist, Mani Neumeier, already an established Jazz drummer at the time of the bands formation.

Mani Neumeier, have collaborated with a series of artist, mainly of German and Japanese origin, Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), Acid Mothers Temple, Harmonia and Jazz musicians Irène Schweizer and Peter Brötzmann amongst others.

Acid Mothers Guru Guru (live 2009) : Makoto Kawabata – Mani Neumeier – Atsushi Tsuyama

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Akuma Kogure – Evil spirit of japanese glam metal

Demon Kakka (デーモン閣下) previously known as Demon Kogure (デーモン小暮閣)Is an Akuma, an evil kami (spirit) masquerading in the human realm. Born 98,038 years before Western civilizations calendar began, in Downtown Jigoku, a realm reserved for humans who are brought here and punished for disobeying the rules of Makai, a place of terror and suffering for humans, a place of merrymaking and joviality for Akuma’s.

As Demon Kogure

In the Human world he is Japanese musician, singer, songwriter, actor, author, television/radio personality, music and stage producer, motion picture and music video director, critic, etc.

As Demon Kogure

He was the frontman of the heavy metal band Seikima-II from 1982–1999, his solo music is very varied, ranging from pop to metal, often with a clear japanese flavor. He is known to always work entirely in character.

With Seikima-II

Demon has released 12 albums with Seikima-II, 9 solo albums under various names, 5 VHS/DVD’s, appeared in video games, made game music, was the voiceover for The Joker (Jack Nicholson) in Japanese version of Batman, and have made guest performances on a series of albums. In 1994 Demon appeared on Larry King Live, becoming the first Japanese musician to do so.

As Demon Kakka

For Mad Men Only

May Blitz was a short lived Rock trio, created back in 1969. After playing live for a while on pubs and other small venues in UK, and going through some personal changes, they got a record deal with Vertigo. At this point the group was Canadian singer and guitarist Jamie Black, Canadian bassist Reid Hudson and Brittish drummer Tony Newman, know at the time for his work with Jeff Beck, Donovan and later playing with names like David Bowie, Allan Clarke (The Hollies), Joan Armatrading, David Coverdale, ect.

From – May Blitz (1970)

May Blitz deliver a nice stoner rock, rooted in heavy blues, in a tradition not unlike Jimi Hendrix or Cream.
The sound is pretty good for albums from this period, and there is a nice mix of genre elements on the albums. On the negative side some may find their style a bit loose and Jammy, compared to other Rock bands in the early 70’s, who was often moving towards a more “restricted” and “composed” Rock style at this point. Anyway, no matter if You think it was deserved or not, they did not do well commercially, and after their second album with the clever title “The 2nd Of May”, they disbanded. The two Canadians vanished from the annals of Rock history, as mentioned above Tony Newman, continued his career as drummer.

From – The 2nd Of May (1971)

“Church Of Misery” Released a cover of May Blitz “For Mad Men Only”, as a bonus track for their 2004 album, The Second Coming. “Church Of Misery” is a Japanese band from Shinjuku, Tokyo, formed in 1995, playing Doom Metal, with influence from early 70’s Heavy and Psychedelic Rock. They are Known to almost always write songs about serial killers and mass murder.

Church Of Misery – For Mad Men Only

Rock In Opposition

Rock In Opposition, part 1 – Introduction.
RIO came as a result of British avant-garde group Henry Cow’s frustration with the music industry in the late 70’s, having travelled in Europe for most of the 70’s, and met with other avant-garde bands, they came to the conclusion that the industry was only interested in the finances not the music, making it almost impossible to create an innovative art, within the system. They invited bands of similar interests to England, and created the first Rock in Opposition festival in 1978.

Japanese band Korekyojinn at the 2013 Rock In Opposition festival.

In the beginning it was a movement or organisation, but it has also become associated with a genre, used to describe an Avant-garde style of (Rock) music, incorporating elements from 20th century Classical music, free from Jazz and experimental Rock, into an eclectic highly complex progressive rock music. That said, not every RIO associated band, plays the same style of Avant-Garde so it is impossible to give a precise description. When the term is used as a genre it is sometimes associated with the works of Frank Zappa, but it would be more correct to say that he inspired many of the RIO acts.

Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention 1969

The original RIO festival included 5 different acts : Henry Cow (England), Stormy Six (Italy), Samla Mammas Manna (Sweden), Univers Zero (Belgium) and Etron Fou Leloublan (France). Soon the organisation also included Art Zoyd (France), Aksak Maboul (Belgium) and Art Bears (England), Art Bears was made of former Henry Cow members, as Henry Cow disbanded shortly after RIO was created.

Stormy Six – 1977

The organisation was short lived, but they had created attention, proved there was a need for a music not able to exist within the borders of the UK/US record industry, made a record company Recommended Records to distribute this music, and many bands have been inspired by them. The Rio movement is not dead, Rio festival are still held and new generations make RIO inspired albums.
Etron Fou Leloublan – live 1979

Rin’

Rin’ was a Japanese female trio, created by three graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 2003. They performed a groundbreaking combination of J-pop style songs, with the use of traditional Japanese instruments.

With their music and expression they connect the traditions and aesthetic of the old Japan, with the Modern Japanese pop culture. Rin’ was :
Chie – 新井智恵 (Chie Arai) and Mana – 吉永真奈 (Mana Yoshinaga) koto, sangen, and jushichi-gen, Tomoca – 長須与佳 (Tomoca Nagasu) biwa and shakuhachi.

They have released four singles and several albums.Most notably Inland Sea released in both the U.S. and in Europe 2006. Their songs have been used as themes for anime and movies. According to the band’s website in 2009 Rin’ put an end to their activities and decided to disband.

1 Giant Leap – What About Me

1 Giant Leap is a project by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman. Traveling all over the world recording with artists, and from those many recordings, making film and albums, of world music, in the most true sense of the word. The projects completed so far have been the 2002 “1 Giant Leap”, and the 2009 “What About Me?”

“What about Me” took them to over 50 locations, around the world, Mali, Brazil, India, Japan, Egypt, China, New York, Oman and many other. Recording well known names like Alanis Morrisette, Carlos Santana, Stewart Copeland and less well known artists like, Rebirth Brass Band (New Orleans) , Samburu Tribe (Kenya) , Dibouka Dancers & The Mask (Gabon), Mirim Imperio do Futuro (Brazil), Kamal Sabri (India), Yoshida Brothers (Japan), and many many more.

From “1 Giant Leap” official homepage :“Next day we had our first music session arranged. A traditional Japanese folk singer, a Miss Honda. We drove up into the hills to a little studio and we met with the singer and her producer. John had given me a CD of her singing and to be honest I wasn’t sure where the hell it would fit, it was very obscure to my ears. I thought folk music meant ordinary people could sing along! I guess it’s all about reference points. They played me something they had worked on over the rocking part of the Love track and it sounded incredible, from another planet all together but perfect!”
(Slightly edited to keep it a bit shorter)

“What about Me” was four years in the making, including 7 months of traveling.
“Our mission was not only to gather insight on the huge universal themes of life…..but also to seek out the cream of the world’s musicians, and compose immence multilayered music with them.”

Koenji hyakkei – Hundred Sights of Koenji , Japan Part 4

Koenji hyakkei (高円寺百景), was a Japanese avant-garde band, debuting in 1994. Koenji hyakkei translates into “Hundred Sights of Koenji”, what is also the title on the debut album. Koenji being an area in Tokyo, with a young population and a lot of small “live music house” hosting a crowded live music scene. Koenji is known to be the birthplace of Japanese Punk.

Im not sure, but I can’t help thinking that the title is a reference to the popular series of woodblock prints, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (名所江戸百景 Meisho Edo Hyakkei ), published in 1856–59. The album cover also features (what seems to be ?) a woodblock print. Edo ( 江戸) was until 1868 the name for Tokyo.

One of the sights of Edo
100_views_edo_044

Headed by the super talented drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, Koenji hyakkei is an offshoot of Japanese cult duo RUINS.

“Hundred Sights of Koenji” is a really dense blast, complex and extremely intense, if you are ready for some totally insane, high speed avant-garde, this is what you have been waiting for. If you prefer relative easy going melodic music, you should skip this one, and move to another post !
Koenji hyakkei clearly has inspiration from French “zeuhl” pioneers “Magma”, but even more extreme, sort of Jazz/heavy rock fusion, on amphetamine, topped by vocals, shouted and chanted in a fictive language, another reference to Magma. This is the direct opposite of easy listening, hard to cope the first 3-4 time you give it a go, but in there somewhere, is hidden moments of true brilliance, and the whole pack of madness is wrapped in wonderful musicality and technical virtuosity.

Japan part.3

Kitaro – Ku-Kai – Japan Part 3

Kitaro – part 2
Kitaro started his solo career in 1977 and became a pioneer in what was to become known as, the New Age movement. Kitaro’s music for “The Silk Road”, an NHK documentary series from the 80’s, was sold in millions and created huge international attention.
Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai is a series of albums inspired by the classic Buddhist pilgrimage “The Shikoku Pilgrimage” (四国遍路) of 88 temples on the island of Shikoku – associated with Kūkai (空海), 774 – 835, a Japanese monk, kalligrapher and engineer. Among the many achievements attributed to him is the invention of the kana, with which in combination with Chinese characters (kanji), the Japanese language is written to this day.

Temple bell

Every track on the 4 volumes of Sacred Journey Of Ku-Kai contains samples from ancient Japanese temple bells (Peace Bells) from the 88 sacred temples.

Japan part 2
Japan part 4

Far East Family Band – Japan Part 2.

Kitaro – part 1
Far East Family Band (jap.: ファー・イースト・ファミリー・バンド, pronounced : Fā Īsuto Famirī Bando )

Kitaro (喜多郎) was born February 4, 1953 in Toyohashi (豊橋市) Aichi Prefecture, Japan, as Masanori Takahashi. His nickname Kitaro was given to him by friends.
In the early ’70s he joined the legendary Psychedelic/Space Rock band “Far East Family Band”, playing keyboards. On the Debut “the Cave Down To Earth” they play a wonderful space rock not unlike Pink Floyd, with ethnic Asian/Japanese elements, creating a very unique sound, an overlooked pearl of very high standarts. “Far easy family band” is highly regarded in the progressive rock community, but is basically unknown to the rest of the music world. Even in Japan, I could not get their records in normal record shops, and I have tried in a few.

Japan Part 1
Japan part 3

Hibari – Japan Part I.

Now I would like to take a look at some Japanese artists, from different styles of music .

Hibari Misora (美空 ひばりMay 29, 1937 – June 24, 1989, was an Iconic Japanese, singer and actress from Yokohama. Massively productive, she had her recording debut at the age of 12 and recorded more than 1,200 songs, and sold more than 80 million records, on top of that she appeared in 166 films.
Posthumously the first woman to receive the People’s Honour Award , for giving the public hope and encouragement. Her stage name literally means “lark of the beautiful sky”—fitting for a woman who was able to lift the collective spirits of the nation, after the horrors of world war II.

Futari_no_hitomi_poster
Japaneese Movie poster

She recorded in different styles, but in her later years, focused on the traditional Japanese enka. Enka (演歌?) is a popular Japanese music genre considered to resemble traditional Japanese music stylistically. Could say it is the Japanese form of traditional ballad.

“Kawa no nagare no yo ni” (above) was in a 1997 NHK poll (the public service media in Japan), voted greatest Japanese song of all time, with 17 million respondents.

Japan Part 2