A great piece of news that is sure to please a good number of you: Plapla Pinky are playing at the Villette Sonique festival on Saturday 25th May at 7pm.…
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A star of the post modern and an enthusiastic singer, Himitsu Hakase (Doctor Secret) magnifies the standards of the popular Japanese song, "Enka". With permed hair à la Marc Bolan, Himitsu Hakase is a superb crooner who has used the tremendous power of his voice on a collection of hits from another period. During his songs, Yuichi Kishino uses humor to improvise gestures suggestive of a jubilatory performance or a Technicolor mime- drama with scintillating and over-the-top sonorities.
At the start of the Nineties, Himitsu Hakase worked in London beside fashion designers who were part of the gay scene (Leigh Bowery). He returned to Tokyo and, amongst other things, designed the graphics for the CD covers of Japanese artistes who were part of the ‘minimalist electronic’ movement (Yoshihide Otomo). Nowadays, when he is not creating a series of ready-to-wear Hawaiian shirts, Himitsu Hakase can be found in the Tokyo club, with his band The Emperors or in a duo, aided and abetted by Yuichi Kishino in the improbable Gira Gira nights.
As a child, he was fascinated by the variety shows trundled out by family television and discovered the Pink Color Trio. He devoured the retransmissions of the famous Wolfman Jack Show in the US army section on Japanese FM radio. He threw himself into the American standards of the Fifties and Sixties and the first signs of rock and roll. A little later, he discovered the Pre-War Japanese singers, such a Hachiirou Oka and Tarou Shoji and their "Natsumero" (nostalgic melodies), followed by the successes of the Twenties and Thirties (Shizuko Kasagi, Hachiiro Kasuga). Their style, voice and attitude took over his head and became a real obsession.
His mother took him to singing lessons for 5 or 6 years (Mozart), but his classmates exposed him to punk (Sex Pistols, The Damned), followed by psychedelic music and glam rock (Marc Bolan, T. Rex, Queen). He was fascinated by platform shoes, bell-bottom trousers and layered soles.
A tireless collector, a few years later, he came across a 45 by Matsudaira Naoki "Blue Roman" Band, the star of the Japanese popular song known as "Enka". It was a terrible shock : Himitsu Hakase suddenly realized at what point he is "Enkadamashi" and at what point his soul is resolutely Enka. His passion then was for "Mood Chorus", a branch of Enka that was slightly more modern and powerful in style. His collection contains over a thousand Mood Chorus 45s.
In 1997, Kazunao Nagata (Transonic) and Yuichi Kishino, time-honored producers and instigators of the Gira Gira nights, asked Himitsu Hakase to come and "mix" with them. He accepted this role as an alternative DJ, but found it more exciting to sing over these dated hits that he knew by heart. During the songs, Kishino could not help using humor to improvise suggestive and synchronized gestures. This impromptu e then invented a jubilatory performance, a Technicolor mime-drama with scintillating and over-the-top sonorities.
© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure
Hifana is an instrumental hip hop duo formed by KEIZOmachine! and Juicy. In his early twenties the former discovers hip hop music through a video showing New York DJ Clark Kent create a brand new track out of a turntable and two copies of the same record. He then absorbs into mastering turntables but soon grows tired of them after learning all there is to be learnt. Going back to the origins of his fascination with hip hop he becomes aware of a passion for rhythm dating from his childhood and thus starts learning percussions. Juicy's path is almost the exact opposite, having played percussions since a very early age and getting himself into turntables and rhythm machines only later.
They both start as members of Tribal Circus, a percussion unit supporting belly dance numbers. The band often perform during rave parties and develop some kind of a fun house aspect to its show, featuring skateboard tricks, juggling and didgeridoo (hand-made out of bamboo from the neighboring bush). From that time KEIZOmachine! and Juicy start using samplers (hip hop's iconic instrument Akai MPC 2000) to play sounds other than that of their limited collection of percussions, notably Indian tabla. After years of touring the duo faces the rest of the band's refusal to develop the show's absurd and slapstick feeling further on, and trusting that their MPC and turntable skills are enough to put on a show they go their own way and form Hifana.
Hifana comes from Okinawan dialect and means "southern wind", "southern flower". Limited by no other boundary than that of their imagination, they stuff their samplers with even more shamisen and South-East Asian instruments sounds. Unsatisfied with merely mimicrying American and European underground music, this aesthetic is for them the only way to produce a genuine Japanese batch of hip hop.
They first put out a scratch record, a 12" for DJs to use in between two songs or over another tune, filled with musical quotes (gamelan, yodel) and non-sensic skits recorded from movies and television. This record allows them to connect ties with Japanese MCs and producers, but their breakthrough only happens in 1998, rapidly gathering fame with unprecedented shows in hip hop history. Though making a heavy use of machines, KEIZOmachine! and Juicy never program their beats, hitting buttons live to recreate their tracks, not even losing the groove when casually switching seats in the middle of a song. They also play "real" percussions and turntables, adding cartoonish sound effects and lines all in perfect synch to animated films shown during the concert. The whole thing is at the same time extremely controlled and alive, powerful and funny.
© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure
Akane Hosaka’s lunging rhythms and deliciously retro melodies hook you into a universe of gleeful wallabies, little drummer boy monkeys and motley robots; think Yellow Magic Orchestra reworked by Jacno, a Web 2.0 style 21st century referencing of the Sixties precursors of electro.
Strangely, images are the initial source of Akane Hosaka’s musical inspiration. Landscape, exhibitions and children’s books; images that become emotions which evoke the music she then transcribes. She is particularly sensitive to the graphic forms and architectural fantasy of artists such as Keiji Ito, Archigram and Bruno Munari. And just try questioning her on the stop-motion films of sixties and seventies France! It takes a true expert to catch her out on Colargol (Barnaby or Jeremy the Bear in the English-speaking world), The Magic Roundabout and Chapi-Chapo.
Overly nostalgic? What?! Akane Hosaka was simply born in another space/time continuum and has a penchant for the glory years when artists with unlimited imagination cleared whole expanses of creative ground. Same goes for her musical influences: Raymond Scott, Perrey & Kingsley and Dick Hyman have pride of place, but pretty much anything relating to the golden age of analogue synthesizers gets a ticket. Akane Hosaka has taken this stuff in, processed it and is now turning it out in an interpretation of her current cosmology. Tune in for musical reworkings of daily incidents in the life of…
Akane Hosaka is a naturally reserved performer and her concerts are rare, precious and sometimes destabilizing because of the contrast between the playful music and the austerity of her onstage persona. But here is a perfectionist, a sort of blacksmith in the smithy, most at ease honing her electronic compositions in the studio. She says, “Making sound has been my all consuming passion since I was a kid and I think about little else. Composition has become second nature for me.” She shuns strict labelling of her music, resisting being categorised as “electronic pop” and preferring to allow her imagination free rein.
© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick