Back in 1978, on 25 November, pioneering Japanese group, Yellow Magic Orchestra released their influential, eponymous, debut full-length. The album and group are widely credited with being very influential on the development of several music genres, including ambient, chiptune, electro, hip hop, house, J-pop, synthpop, and techno, to name a few.
The band (also known as YMO) were also on influence on another Japanese scene that emerged around the dawn of the 21st Century, picopop (or ピコポップ). Bands and performers such as EeL, Hi-Posi, Motocompo, Plus-tech Squeeze Box, Sonic Coaster Pop, and Strawberry Machine updated the shibuya-kei (渋谷系) style popularized in the 1990s by Cibo Matto, Cornelius, Flipper's Guitar, Pizzicato Five, and Original Love by adding some good, old fashioned, electro elements with a sensibility that often recalls YMO.
Self-portrait of Hokusai from 1842
The great wave off Kanagawa
Hokusai was born in the Musashi province of Edo (now Tokyo) in 1760. The exact date of his birth is somewhat uncertain although it is often said to have been the 23rd day of the 9th month of the 10th year of the Hōreki era, which would be the 31st of October in the Gregorian calendar. His adoptive (and likely biological) father was Nakajima Ise, mirror-maker to the shogun. Since Hokusai wasn’t named as his heir – it is sometimes assumed that his mother was a concubine. Hokusai’s childhood name was 姓は川村氏 (Kawamura Tokitarō). He later went by 鉄蔵 (Tetsuzo), 中島八右衛門 (Nakajima Hachiemon) and about thirty other (usually quite colorful) noms d'artiste.
Obon (お盆) is a Japanese holiday on which observers honor the spirits of their ancestors. Within Japan as well as the Japanese diaspora, Obon has been observed on different dates since Japan’s adoption of the Gregorian Calender in 1872.
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Little Tokyo
In LA and Orange County there were also Obon festivities on different dates that took place not only in several Little Tokyo venues but also in Anaheim, Gardena, Little Osaka, Venice, and West Covina. I attended the Obon Festival at Little Tokyo’s Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple (ロサンゼルス東本願寺別院).
Everyday I think about what it would mean to suffer the panic of a disastrous earthquake. Sometimes the thought is latent, residing somewhere in my metal recesses. But at other times, like a few mornings ago when a magnitude 4 earthquake centered a few miles away literally shook me out of bed at 5:33am, it glows at the front and center in my mind like a warning fire. Can anyone ever really be ready for a seismic shift of any size? How does one prepare for the aftermath? Is there a price you wouldn't pay for hindsight?
If for no other reason than to acquire some beautiful music, Kazu Makino of the band Blonde Redhead has recently released a charity compilation on her newly founded Asa Wa Kuru label (meaning "Morning Will Come" in Japanese) with proceeds to benefit the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund and Architecture For Humanity (a list of these and other groups, individuals and institutions active in the disaster hit areas in Northern Japan can be found here). The vinyl-only compilation, titled We Are The Works In Progress, features some of the most hauntingly 4AD-esque broken-yet-crystalline pop-synth clarion calls to be heard of all the relief offerings put together by musicians with a mind to support Japan's post-tsunami healing process. The collection, spread over two LPs, features Blonde Redhead of course, plus an impressive array of singular artists like Four Tet, Ryuichi Sakamoto teamed up with David Sylvian, Broadcast, Deerhunter, John Maus, Interpol, Terry Riley, Pantha du Prince and many more - it is available for purchase through Amoeba Music here. Simply put, it is a gorgeous effort created to further a worthy cause - one that shouldn't provoke a pause to contemplate the value of music, but rather the value of hope.
AKB48 miming for Coca-Cola:
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