Posts Tagged ‘punk’

Latin lovers in Japan

Monday, August 31st, 2009

EKD_625

I’m standing in Treasure Chest, a watering hole deep in the bowels of Shibuya. An old-school Jamaican-style sound system blasts cumbia and rock-en-Español while patrons trickle in, buy drinks and start shaking handmade rattles to the beat. In an hour or so, the band EKD (above) will set up behind the bar and play a free set of Latin-inflected surf-rock. They are relatively unknown so far, but if Japanese tastes continue on the same trajectory, EKD will be playing much larger venues soon enough.

Whether it be salsa, flamenco, samba or mambo, the Latin musical spectrum has a long and storied history in Japan, but in recent years more eclectic and subversive sounds have gained traction with the twentysomething set. These bands frequently mix traditional musical elements with punk ethos or political predilections. Sometimes both.

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Fell in love with a Gypsy

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Gogol Bordello

The gypsies are coming!

Nothing new actually. Gypsy bands have been touring Japan for years, but this summer may mark a watershed moment since two of the most talked-about acts at Japan’s major music festivals were Roma music progenitors: Sweden’s Räfven at Fujirock and New York’s Gogol Bordello at Summer Sonic.

Both are big bands (8 or 9 people onstage) with a big sound. And now, possibly a big impact. Creating a new Fujirock record, Räfven performed eight times at the festival, playing everywhere from the massive Red Marquee stage to the Mokudoutei, a small wooden platform set up along a boardwalk through the forest. Word spread over the weekend (their CD was one of the fest’s highest-selling), and by their final shows, crowds had grown massive . . . and rowdy. Ever seen 200 Japanese kids mosh to accordions and violins? It’s magnificent.

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