This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting and having a long sun-soaked breakfast with rapper Shing02, who grew up all over the world — Berkeley, Tanzania, Japan — and now lives in LA. He’s super famous for tracks he created with famous DJs like Nujabes and was part of the up-and-coming hip hop movement on the East Bay in the 90s. Understated, thoughtful, a true lyricist who can connect nodes of thought and makes cool analogies with words.
He recently made this film called then-n-now, watch!
I just got back from a fabulous two-day trip to Austin, Texas for SXSW with Novmichi Tosa of Maywa Denki. Tomo + I went took him there as part of the IEEE contingency. He gave an amazing performance and debuted the Otamatone Deluxe, which goes on sale next month. (You can buy the normal-sized Otamatone on Amazon.) I’ve known him for years, but this was the first time I got to see him perform live. So great!
While I was in Tokyo last week, Uniqlo launched their Save Japan campaign. Together with Conde Nast Japan, they got all these celebrities to design black and white (and sometimes a little bit of color) t-shirts. I think this is the Lady Gaga one. Others include Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Karl Lagerfeld, and Orlando Bloom. So fancy pants!
You can buy them at any Uniqlo store for $20 each.
My friend Peter Arcuni, aka Sonny Pete, has a new album out called Where the Shadows Pass that is inspired by Japanese death poems. Very cool! He says:
Where the Shadows Pass, first inspired by a collection of Japanese death poems, is conceived as a series of vignettes and meditations on the nature of death and passage. You see, in the Buddhist tradition monks would each write a single haiku on their deathbed to reflect on the shadowy journey ahead. Despite the grim circumstance of their creation, these death poems were also a celebration of life both in this world and on to the next. This duality is the crux of the odes comprising Where the Shadows Pass.
We just missed his performance at Cafe du Nord (one of my favorite venues in SF) last week but keep an eye on his web site for more show dates… also, I just downloaded the album (available on iTunes) and it’s great!
Instead of doing what I’m supposed to be doing on the Internet, I’ve been surfing YouTube for Mario theme song instrumentals for the past hour. Love this one of a guy playing the flute + beatboxing…
But! This song is by far my favorite. Is it called Donuts? It’s so lovely on the piano. If you can play this song for me, please video tape it and I’ll post it on TokyoMango. So far I only know two people who can play it–my good friend Joe Sabia and The Mario Piano Guy (who seems to have erased himself from the Interwebs). Thanks.
I’m sitting at SFO airport en route to New York, watching this clip of Swedish band Little Dragon performing a song from their new album Ritual Union on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon yesterday. 29-year old lead singer Yukimi Nagano is from Gothenberg, Sweden. her dad’s Japanese. You might remember her from a couple of songs she co-wrote and co-performed on the latest Gorillaz album. Like!
They look like Russian Matryoshka dolls, but they’re actually theremin-like instruments called “matromyns.” Check out this amazing performance by Japanese musical group Mable–they do live performances with matromyns and just released their second album last month. The matromyn is actually a real instrument that you can buy in select music shops for about $400, has a theremin loop, an amp, and a speaker inside. It’s played the same way as a theremin, by waving your hand near the instrument, and spans five octaves. As evidenced by the YouTube video above, it sounds pretty cool and is visually just kind of bizarre and stunning.
Aldious is an all-girl rock band from Kansai formed in 2008. They look like they work in a hostess bar. I don’t love the music but give them props for popularizing the agejyo-meets-headbanger concept. Like power rangers, each member has a theme color.
Playing for Change, the awesome music crew from LA that makes collaborative music videos of artists around the world playing awesome songs, released this version of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song featuring Hiromitsu Agatsuma, an accomplished shamisen player from Ibaraki Prefecture. I met the PFC crew in India four years ago when they were shooting their pilot. We were all there hanging out with a Tibetan rock trio called the JJI Exile Brothers—-I think they’re in one of their earlier videos.
This brand new collaborative rap video was directed by Shing02 (you might remember him from this awesome Nujabes song)–It’s part of the Stop Rokkasho project, an attempt spearheaded by Ryuichi Sakamoto to raise awareness of the Rokkasho nuclear processing plant in Aomori Prefecture.
Check out this adorable video of an 88-year old Japanese man testing out the LaDiDa iphone app. LaDiDa is a machine learning app that reads your voice and then sets background music to whatever tune you’re belching out. I love how excited he gets when the music comes on, and his repetition of “dokkoisho” is hilarious. (It’s a word typically used by old people when they have to get up from a chair or pick up something heavy, signaling added physical effort.) I don’t know why he’s holding a boat.
I know this App has been out and popular for awhile, but I’m just downloading it now and am gonna try it out. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Sour — a band known for making awesome videos that exploit the powers of the Internet — has really outdone itself with this new one, called Mirror. It uses your browser, webcam, Facebook, Twitter, Google image search, and html5 to create this crazy interactive viewing experience. Try it now!
I want to see this award-winning documentary called Waiting for a Train: The Toshio Hirano Story, about a Japanese man who fell in love with bluegrass in the 50s, moved to Texas, and adopted the genre and lifestyle as his own. Also, he looks a lot like my dad’s brother.
There’s an interesting review and discussion over at Boing Boing about Tonoharu, a manga about an American who gets a job teaching English in a small Japanese town. Reviewers have likened it to Lost in Translation, and there’s a somewhat heated discussion about how racist that movie is in the comments section. Take a peek if you’re interested or want to contribute your two cents!
I love that Mark embedded a video of the famous Pink Lady song UFO kind of as an afterthought. Classic 70s tune written by a good family friend of mine.
Ryuichi Sakamoto is in San Francisco tonight — I’m not at the show, but I’m listening to his music at home as I finish (or think about starting, rather) an assignment due tomorrow morning. So enchanting.