Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

out demons out 3 February, 2009

Filed under: customs,music — johnraff @ 2:13 pm
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Anyone remember the Edgar Broughton Band? Back at university it seemed like they’d be there at any festival, event or concert with those Beefheart vocals and wild distorted guitar. I hated them at the time, them and another bad penny, the Third Ear Band who went in for interminable atonal wailings. (Subsequently changed my mind completely about them, and probably would have liked the Broughtons too if I’d heard them a couple of years later.)

Anyway every year I get reminded of Edgar Broughton’s anthem “Out Demons Out”; today is Setsubun, the coldest time of the year which, as everything contains the seed of its opposite, means the beginning of Spring. You’re supposed to throw beans around the house shouting “Demons out,  luck in”  or something. (Demons, or oni represent evil influences, generally, and have horns just like the Western variety.)  I wonder how many people actually do it now – maybe another generation and most of these customs will have died out…

You can check out Edgar Broughton’s rendering of “Out Demons Out” here – real 60s stuff! I keep meaning to have a go with Daihachi Ryodan but it will have to wait till we have a gig at the beginning of February some year. (Probably noone would enjoy it but me anyway.)


Where you’re coming from 31 January, 2009

Filed under: music — johnraff @ 2:17 pm
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An Indian guy, now based in the US, comes into Raffles’ sometimes (he likes Malaysian food), and the other day when he was here I put on some old Bollywood music, thinking he might enjoy the nostalgia. “EEH – didn’t expect to be hearing this sh*t here in Japan!!” was the sort of reaction I got.

Hmm… I guess that music has quite different resonances for us. For me, apart from enjoying the technical level and imaginative arrangements, those sounds are redolent of the India I visited some 30 years ago before coming to Japan. Even earlier, some of you might remember the head shops of the 60s/70s with their burning incense, Indian god posters and Indian music in the background. India was cool in those days – and still is, for me at least.

For my customer, though, it was the stuff that was on the radio all the time when he was a kid – nerdy, worn-out, definitely uncool. As if someone had been enthusing to me about Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Perry Como; sure that stuff’s OK, but…


Osaka revisited 8 October, 2008

Filed under: music,places — johnraff @ 2:11 am
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Last week we went back to Osaka for another Daihachi Ryodan gig. The last time was the Haru Ichiban festival in a beautiful Spring park, but this one was at a funky place called Rain Dogs in the Umeda “entertainment district” – a zone of cheap eating and drinking places, interspersed with various disreputable-looking establishments offering some kind of “service”… Very much an Asian city scene packed with neon signs, strolling customers, hustlers,sounds, smells… and much bigger than any equivalent in Nagoya. Osaka is big – with 6 million people, and then Kobe and Kyoto close by, this is an urban conglomeration to rival Tokyo/Yokohama.The Osaka expressway is quite something – this maze of overhead highways snakes to and fro between high-rise buildings just like something out of the comics that were around when I was a kid. The difference between that view of the future and the reality it’s turned out to be is that the people in those pictures looked happy and relaxed as their futuristic vehicles flew here and there – now everyone’s late for a meeting or something and stressed out. Why do we have to spend so much of our time going from one place to another these days?

Topping the bill at Rain Dogs was Noboru Abe and the Magic Animals  (I wish I’d thought of that name!) who were really good, in an odd sort of way. No spectacular solos or anything, but an original groove and interesting vocals. One of those bands that creates their own world. I suppose they’re a sort of cult band – they don’t even have a web page. Abe san is a dai sempai who in 1998 was hanging out with Mickey Hart when I was just starting College, and one of the moving spirits behind the Haruichiban festival.

Kansai (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and district) is kindof cool these days and you can hear kansai ben on NHK where before it was all standard Japanese, a bit like the increase in regional English on the BBC. Osaka is sometimes compared with Birmingham in the UK, but the people remind me more of Londoners – quick talkers, great sense of humour (Osaka’s the centre of manzai ), on the lookout for a quick profit but friendly and kind. They make good audiences too, and Daihachi’s performance went over quite well I think. A nice outing.


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