Osamu Kitajima (喜多嶋修) – Benzaiten (1974)

capa cópiaThe music of Japan includes a wide array of performers in distinct styles both traditional and modern. The word for music in Japanese is 音楽 (ongaku), combining the kanji  ‘on’ (sound) with the kanji  ‘gaku’ (enjoy). Many instruments, as the koto, were introduced in the 9th and 10th centuries, the accompanied recitative of the Noh drama dates from the 14th century and the popular folk music, with the guitar-like shamisen, from the 16th century. Western classical music, introduced in the late 19th century, now forms an integral part of Japanese culture. The imperial court ensemble Gagaku has influenced the work of many modern Western composers.

Notable classical composers from Japan include Toru Takemitsu and Rentarō Taki.

Biwa & Koto by Utagawa Kunisada, 1848
Biwa & Koto by Utagawa Kunisada, 1848

Popular music in post-war Japan has been heavily influenced by American and European trends, which has led to the evolution of J-pop (popular music). Japan is the second-largest music market in the world, with a total retail value of over 3 billion dollars in 2013, dominated by Japanese artists. Karaoke is also the most widely practiced cultural activity, ahead of flower arranging (ikebana) or tea ceremonies. Traditional Japanese music is quite different from Western music as it’s based on the intervals of human breathing rather than mathematical timing. (!)

Toru Takemitsu
Toru Takemitsu

Let’s go to our artist:

Osamu Kitajima (February 3, 1949) was born and raised in the beach town of Chigasaki (Kanagawa Prefecture), as a young man he studied classical guitar and piano; his first band the Launchers, was led by pop idol and actor Yuzo Kayama, the group disbanded in the late ’60s, after Kitajima began to work on his own.

After graduating from Keio University, and already a successful composer of TV and advertising jingles, he moved for one year to the UK in 1971, which brought him in to contact with British folk and psychedelia. Inspired by The Beatles, T. Rex, and Syd Barrett, he dubbed himself Justin Heathcliff and issued a lone eponymous album.

Dr. Osamu Kitajima, 1972
Dr. Osamu Kitajima, 1972

His first solo album in 1974, Benzaiten, was a mix of modern pop and traditional Japanese music, and was well received in Japan and later released abroad (Antilles label in U.S.) where it received some underground radio airplay and sold moderately. Also in 1974 Kitajima relocated to the Los Angeles area and later opened East Quest Studios; the late ’70s and ’80s saw the establishment of its career, with more than a dozen Lp’s, he has become one of Japan’s biggest selling artist internationally!

During the decades, Osamu Kitajima expanded his work to include commercial and soundtrack work, he provided part of the music to the blockbuster mini-series Shogun and contributed to the soundtrack of Sharkey’s Machine. He also arranged the scores for PBS documentaries on Japan, Chinese/Japanese film Mandala and produced a number of artists. Nowadays, inside East Quest Records, he continues to release his own albums (new and re-issues), as well as works by countless artists.

Osamu's Portrait
Osamu’s Portrait

Let’s go to our album:

This is truly a melting pot of Western rock and Japanese traditional music, very few have pulled it off so well as Kitajima does here. Either they usually fall prey to new age sappiness or move towards amateurish exploitation, fortunately, it does not happen here, a real serious work, the type of rock-influenced world music that still hasn’t been much explored at all. The album also featured Haruomi Hosono and it utilized various electronics: synthesizerrhythm machine, and electronic drums.

A bit different from our previous entry Buddha Meet Rock, this is a more elaborate record, with brilliant musicians and cinematic feelings, being a cornerstone of Japanese folklore, be enlightened by Kitajima’s masterful work and Bono Trinus!

Benzaiten Goddess
Benzaiten Goddess

The ‘IM’ highlights are Taiyo (The Sun) and Benzaiten (Reprise).

Tracks Include:

A1 Benzaiten (The God of Music and Water)

A2 Taiyo (The Sun)

A3 Tengu (A Long-Nosed Goblin)

B1 Benzaiten (Reprise)

B2 Whoma (Immortality)

Credits

  • Acoustic Guitar, Synthesizer, Percussion, Electric Guitar, Koto, Biwa, Drums (African, Mexican), Electronic Drums (Rhythm Machine): Osamu Kitajima
  • Bass: Dennis Belfield, John Harris
  • Biwa: Masako Hirayama
  • Drums (African): Kinji Yoshino
  • Drums (Tsuzumi), Percussion (Narimono): Kisaku Katada
  • Electric Bass: Haruomi Hosono
  • Electric Guitar: George Marinelli
  • Flute (Hayashi-bue): Haruyoshi Hosei
  • Keyboards: Brian Whitcomb
  • Shakuhachi: Tatsuya Sano
  • Sho: Yosei Sato
  • Engineer: Kinji Yoshino
  • Engineer (Assistant): Yutaka Matsumoto
  • Producer: Kinji Yoshino, Osamu Kitajima
  • Distributed and Manufactured: Island Records Inc.
  • Antilles U.S. release of the album first released by Island Records (Japan) in 1974.

Recorded through Jan/Aug 1974 at Hit Studio of Jean Jean Theater, Tokyo

Whoma recorded live at Nikkei Hall.

Antilles ‎– AN 7016

Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival

Disciplina Kičme – Ja Imam Šarene Oči (1985)

capa cópiaThe Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the end of WWII (1945) until it was formally dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav wars. It was a socialist state that comprised the area of the present-day independent states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Kosovo. Outside the Eastern Bloc, but a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and as such, it was far more opened and tolerant to western influences comparing to the (many) other socialist states.

Unlike the citizens of other Socialist countries, Yugoslavs enjoyed the freedom of travel and had easy access to Western popular culture. The Yugoslav pop and rock music scene was well developed and covered in the media including numerous magazines, radio and (pioneering) TV shows. SFR Yugoslavia was also the only Socialist country which was taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest, it joined in 1961 even before Western nations such as Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Turkey. (!)

Stjepan Filipović / 'Death to fascism, freedom to the people!'
Stjepan Filipović / ‘Death to fascism, freedom to the people!’

Let’s go to our music:

The new wave music scene emerged in the late ’70s worldwide and had a significant impact on Yugoslav culture. Like its counterparts, the British and the US movement, the Yugoslav new wave was also closely related to Punk Rock, Ska, Reggae, 2 Tone, Mod Revival, etc. The period around 1982 is considered especially crucial concerning the decline of the scene in Yugoslavia, and around the globe.

Zoran Kostić-Cane, the former vocalist of Radnička Kontrola, formed the furious garage punk group Partibrejkers and achieved huge success. Idoli, Prljavo Kazalište, and Film became pop-rock and all of them respectively achieved great mainstream success. The cult band Azra gradually moved on to a more conventional folk-rock sound and Električni Orgazam went through a psychedelic phase.

Partibrejkers, 1981
Partibrejkers, 1981

Symbols of the Yugoslav new wave era are the compilation albums Paket Aranžman, Novi Punk Val, Artistička Radna Akcija and especially movies Davitelj Protiv Davitelja (starring Idoli member Srđan Šaper) and Dečko Koji Obećava (featuring appearances by Šarlo Akrobata and Idoli). Also, an important rockumentary covering this effervescent period is Sretno Dijete, check it out! Lastly, Dušan Kojić-Koja, the former bass player of Šarlo Akrobata formed the legendary group Disciplina Kičme.

This period in the former Yugoslav music is considered a Golden Age Era!

Paket Aranžman (Compilation), 1981
Paket Aranžman (Compilation), 1981

Let’s go to our artist:

Disciplina Kičme (Spinal Discipline), currently working under the slightly altered name of Disciplin A Kitschme, was one of two spin-offs of the seminal Belgrade post-punk/new-wave band Šarlo Akrobata, the other being Ekatarina Velika.

Founded in 1982 by Dušan Kojić-Koja (bass and vocals), Disciplina Kičme was characterized by unconventional line-ups: bass + one or two drummers, sometimes with and without a brass line. Musically, they are best described as an aggressive and artistic rhythmic explosion, experimenting and seeking out new expressiveness while finding (plenty) inspiration in the traditions of punk rock, funk, jazz fusion, noise, drum n’ bass and even the works of Jimi Hendrix. (!)

Disciplina Kičme (Koja & Zica), 1982
Disciplina Kičme (Zica & Koja), 1982

Let’s go to our album:

After the first independent album release Sviđa Mi Se Da Ti Ne Bude Prijatno (1983), the band continued performing in major Yugoslav cities, mainly in small clubs, and in 1985, they released an EP Ja Imam Šarene Oči (I Have Colorful Eyes), with the single ‘Novac Neće Doći’, released by Slovenian label Dokumentarna.

Todorović did the drums and Krasavac appeared only on the intro for the track ‘Sviđa Mi Se…’ and on ’28. jun 1984′ recorded live at Belgrade’s SKC on the same date. Kojić produced the EP and for the first time included a trumpet played by Jugoslav Muškinja. Along the decades they passed through many different line-ups and styles, with a (very) active career, being internationally recognized.

Nowadays, the band enjoys a solid cult status and the last album from 2011!

Disciplin A Kitschme
Disciplin A Kitschme

Disciplina Kičme also held three albums in the YU 100: The Best albums of Yugoslav Pop and Rock music book: Sviđa Mi Se Da Ti Ne Bude Prijatno (No. 52), Zeleni Zub Na Planeti Dosade (No. 32) and Svi Za Mnom! (No. 65) (!)

The ‘IM’ highlights are Veruj Meni! and Vaspitanje.

Góða Ferð!

Tracks Include:

A1 Doboš 7 Puta (Snare Drum 7 Times)

A2 Novac Neće Doći! (Money Won’t Come)

A3 Veruj Meni! (Trust Me!)

A4 Pristanište (Pier)

B1 Sviđa Mi Se… (I Like…)

B2 Pregršt Novca (Plenty of Money)

B3 Vaspitanje (Manners)

B4 28. Jun 84!

Credits

  • Bass, Vocals, Bells: Koja (Dušan Kojić)
  • Drums, Percussion (Daire): Zica (Srđan Todorović)
  • Drums on 5 and 9: Nenad Krasavac
  • Handclaps: Đorđe Kostić, Nenad Krasavac
  • Music, Lyrics, Artwork (Cover): Dušan Kojić
  • Trumpet: Jugoslav Muškinja
  • Photography: Igor Petrović
  • Producer: Disciplina Kičme
  • Producer, Handclaps: Darko Milojković
  • Recorded: Enco Lesić
  • Recorded, Producer: Miroslav Cvetković

Recorded at studio Druga Maca, Beograd, September 1983 / 12’’ EP

B4 recorded live in SKC on 28.06.1984 w/ Branislav Trivić (sax), Zekerman (trumpet)

Dokumentarna ‎– DOK P-4

Belgrade Fortress
Belgrade Fortress

JAGATARA (暗黒大陸じゃがたら) – Nanban Torai (南蛮渡来) [1982]

Nanban Torai
Nanban Torai

JAGATARA (Jacatra, romanized), is an exclusive 80’s band from Japan, so they didn’t participate the 60/70’s Avant rock scene as their eldest predecessors, like Happy End, Sadistic Mika Band, Speed, Glue & Shinki, Haruomi Hosono, Jacks, Maki Asakawa, and Yoshiko Sai. Thus, our usual background for Japanese rock, early context, and its characters’ stories will appear throughout our galaxy, not today! Further that, this is an odd kind of rock, especially for an oriental one.

Japanese rock is primarily founded on folk and blues, later, southern rock and psychedelia, all these wisdom, are set aside to give chance for a new wave aesthetics! Like all great band, they deserved a continuous rewriting and rediscovering of its sound, live performances, and biography, all CD re-releases made by BMG Japan are quite new, ergo, all digital archives found on the net today. This fact, made them formerly unknown worldwide, also, the original Lp’s (released on an independent label) are rather expensive treasures in today’s heated market of vinyl. Hereupon, welcome to the outstanding world of JAGATARA!

Let’s go to their story:

Having on its key figure, your deceased singer, writer, and composer, Edo Akemi (July 1, 1952 – January 27, 1990)JAGATARA, are an incredible mix of genres, backed on a punk rock basis (drums, bass, guitar). They moved away from the usual rock that was being made back then, to debut as one of the greatest bands from Japan, audience and commercially speaking. Edo’s performances are a separate chapter in their history, his visceral punk anima, shocked the public due to extreme actions, such as constant injuries, bleed out, golden showers and live defecations! (!!)

But it’s the music power combo and its lyrics, their greatest development. Coming from a restless hyperactive frontman, themes like loneliness, madness, life in the big city, drug abuse and satirical social issues were present throughout his short career.

Early Formation
Early Formation

Born in Nakamura, a Kochi prefecture, near Tokyo, Edo Masataka (birth name) was the fourth from a five sisters family. Since childhood, an intelligent, fastidious and sore loser used to play tricks with its friends and learned early to question authority. A famous episode was a discussion with the priest from his Junior High School, he doubted and alleged some ‘big mistakes on the bible’, horrified the cleric expelled him from the church. That event was his Christian withdraw!

During the period of 1971 until 1979, he entered at Meiji University, on Tokyo, to attend on Letters and History course, the fact that it took twice as long until his graduation, shows us a loosely mind not so fitted with the common and boring status quo. But it was there, that the embryo from JAGATARA would be formed, more precisely in his eight and last admission, on august 79, together with Ebby (guitar) and Pan (bass) they debuted on live stages.

Thenceforth, the band began his ascent to the mainstream, their anarchist live performances on April 1980 at Shinkuku Theater called the national media attention: Akemi’s tearing up and eating in the raw a live chicken and a Shimahebi (sort of snake) (!!). The season concerts extend sold out throughout the year with dozens of publications from specialized magazines and even a Playboy famous interview.

Punk Samurai
Punk Samurai

An Ep (Last Tango in Joku) is released in April 1981, the live exposures continue. Due to mass media coverage plus high expectations from the audience (only) for Edo’s freak shows, with months, they realize the monster that they birth: a ZERO interest in their music! The band had become a fancy bourgeois product. Aware of it all, later that year comes the shift that would transform the band’s whole proposal. Alongside with OTO‘s (guitar) entry, the pure punk sound is left a bit aside, gaining new colors with the funk and afrobeat. During September/October they began the production of their first full-length album, that would take until April 1982.

With Nanban Torai release, they consolidate their status as real musicians and composers, from that on, the band entered in another suicidal domestic tour, by the end of 1983, Edo was diagnosed with a harsh mental disorder. Hospitalized and later discharged with his parents in Shikoku, simultaneously on Tokyo, the Dark Continent Jacatra band would see a two-year hiatus (1983-85) caused too, by many quarrels among its members and multiple charges for drug possession.

A live release occurs in the interval and in 1986 the band returns with a new formation, on the same basis, but more close to the big band formula: horn sections, keyboards, percussion and female choir dancers!

Final Formation
Final Formation

Until 1990, more than 6 albums hits nihonjin music charts, unfortunately, in early January 90, Edo is found dead at his home, the Mortis causa: accidental drowning while bathing. The astonishing news suddenly hits all band members, though he had offered to leave the band just before death, JAGATARA broke up instantly due to lack of its central figure. As if not enough on April 8, 1992, Pan dies of acute pneumonia, eight months later Shinoda (sax) passes by myocardial infarction (!).

Let’s go to our record:

Considered the 22nd greatest album by Rolling Stone 100 JapanNanban Torai (Barbarian Introduction) is a contagious mix. Ranging from diverse personal genres, such as Frank Zappa, southern rock, funk, afrobeat, reggae, punk rock and post-punk. The album, released on May 1982 for Dr. Records, an independent label, got a strange live feeling and it was an instant success on Japan, being aired on Tokyo Channel 12 and transmitted by NHK-FM.

For instance, during a live TV performance the vocalist from a punk band called Gism, entered underhand and had an aggressive struggle with Edo. That would cause one of the greatest disagreements, the band didn’t even try to mend the fight, on the contrary, the song was played until the end, with both on the floor!

The ‘IM’ highlights for today will be straight: End of Season, an urban post-punk, with lots of fuzz, dancing uptempo, singing way manifesto and dissonant ending. A direct shot! And Baby, simply the greatest groove so far, an homage to everything that jumps: soul, funk, disco, boogie. Nile Rodgers swing guitar feels, heavy solos and the greatest mantra chorus for your party time, please enjoy.

God Tur!

Track include:

A1 でも・デモ・Demo

A2 季節のおわり(End of Season)

A3 Baby

A4 タンゴ (Tango)

B1 アジテーション (Agitation Vagina)

B2 ヴァギナ・Fuck

B3 FADE OUT

B4 クニナマシェ (Kuninamashe)

Music, Songwriting: Edo Akemi /////// Arrangement: Dark Continent Jacatra

Members:

Akemi Edo ~ vocals /// SAMMY ~ drums /// Pan ~ (bass)

Ebby ~ guitar /// OTO ~ guitar

Guest musicians:

  • Yoshida (Yoshida Tetsuji) (trumpet) 1, 3
  • Smiley (baritone sax) 1
  • Shinnosuke (alto sax) 1
  • Beginning Band (Chorus) 1
  • P · C · E & C (Aso Rabbit) (chorus) 1
  • Jacatra Girls (Chorus) 1, 3, 7, 8
  • Yutaka Fukuoka (Chikada Haruo & Biburatonzu) (percussion) 1, 5
  • Benkei (Tokyo Grand Guignol) (alto sax) 3, 7
  • Masashi Yamamoto and Oblique Eye Patch (chorus) 3
  • Kenji Ono (trumpet) 7
  • Sadagawa Aya (voice) 7
  • George Kawabe (Kawabe Noriyuki)
  • Kai (drums) 8
  • Kid in The Neighborhood (chorus) 8
Edo Akemi
Edo Akemi