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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Jon is a young woman, who, disguised as a dog, plays the harmonium and shows off her canine voice in light, burlesque songs. For over 10 years, after a disc on the Tzadik New York label in 1996 and a few albums on the Oz Disc label, Jon (The Dog) continues to trundle her portable show across Tokyo. A sort of Dadaist cabaret that has changed little over the years, remaining definitive and immutable. The artiste dissimulates her timidity by means of dynamic improvisation and narrates her incredible tales.
Born in 1972, Shoko Uehara began singing at a very early age, by imitating the sounds from the television and writing her own songs about cats, at tea-time. Her parents persuaded her to study classical piano, which she did between the ages of 5 and 15. It was only by leaving the family home that she created the link between her musical training and her highly personal world, channeling her gift for improvisation into an abundance of compositions.
Only on rare occasions does life in Tokyo allow the luxury of a piano, so she bought a small and cheap harmonium with a breathless tone that she still uses today. For her first performances, appeared in pyjamas with a cow motif before, from 1997, making the logical step to a repertoire, the major theme of which is her dog, with Shoko wearing an enormous and all-encompassing wolf costume with long synthetic fur, turning herself into Jon (Inu) [The Dog].
Coming from the huge body of an animal whose hairy paws are always rickety, her childlike voice underlines the extreme finesses of the words, albeit delivered with a strange conviction. The recordings on radiocassette players contain all sorts of ambient crackles and noises that, at the start, were more or less identifiable and create an atmosphere that is both funny, frightening and nostalgic.
Jon (The Dog) gives concerts 4 times a month, on average, and has released 4 albums, most notably the one on the Tzadik label (John Zorn); when she is not playing in a raft of parallel projects, she runs a bar in the à Golden Gai (a district of Tokyo) or reads tarot to passers-by in the Shinjuku district.
© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure
Asa-Chang & Junray create devastatingly beautiful music that takes our world and turns it into the realm of folklore (or is it the other way round?!). Junrei means “pilgrimage” in Japanese and this one soon becomes an unexpected and luminous journey into the surreal. En route, you’ll make contact with Indian percussion, drums, trumpets and vocal collage. Asa-Chang & Junray’s music is rooted in the Chindon’ya (Japanese street musicians), circus music and barrel organ playing and has an undeniable Sixties (the Showa period) insouciance about it.
Percussionist Asa-Chang started Tokyo Ska Paradise Ochestra but left in 1993, just when it was becoming successful. Several years later he founded the two-piece, Asa-Chang & Junray with Hidehiko Urayama, producer and composer of film music (and guitarist with the group Arepos at the end of the eighties). Their first EP, Tabla Magma Bongo, came out in 1998. However Hidehiko Urayama doesn’t play live, his amazing vocal collages all studio work. So Asa-Chang & Junray took on a third member in 2000, U-Zhaan, a peerless tabla player who spends half his time in India following the teachings of the master Ustad Zakir Hussain.
The track ‘Hana’ got Asa-Chang & Junray a reputation outside Japan and an album of the same name was released in England on The Leaf Label, to much critical acclaim. John Peel played ‘Hana’ on his show on BBC Radio 1 and in 2002 the album was voted fourth best album of the year by magazine, The Wire. It was also in the top 40 albums of the year in Mojo that year. In Japan in 2004, the track ‘Senaka’, a collaboration with singer Kyoko Koizumi, gave the band wider exposure. ‘Senaka’ was also remixed by Rei Harakami on the album Minna No Junray, out in 2005.
Disturbingly sensitive, Asa-Chang & Junray have invented a new music that is played at ground level on woven straw mats or in the middle of gardens. It is difficult to qualify, cinematic, almost excessively expressive. The group occasionally works with the dance troupe, Idevian Crew. Asa-Chang also plays with the jazz band Asa-Chang & Blue Hearts, and UZhaan can be found in the company of various different musicians, L?K?O amongst them, with who he released a debut album, Borsha Kaal Breaks, under the name Oigoru in 2008.
© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick