Sunday, October 31, 2010

Film: Live From Tokyo @ Asia Institute 10/29/10

I've been curious about music in Japan for a while now.  I know that there are many great live CDs that come from Japan and the ones I have, of artists I love, are all a little different, more cutting edge than the CDs from the states.  This film was about a music scene of underground local Japanese musicians playing in Live Houses all over Tokyo.  It's one director and his team's view of the scene.  It looks like it is so vast that you make many films out of this very rich and dense scene.  I love screenings with a Q&A with the filmmaker.  It was definitely an even richer experience with that. 

They had the director Lewis Rapkin out briefly before the film.  I must say I was surprised how young he was (and the audience as well).  He is a musician living in Brooklyn.  He did a study abroad thing in Tokyo and saw great music every single night.  He was compelled to come back with a crew and document the scene.  They did the filming in 8 weeks.  They contacted the bands and potential interviewees by email.  Each day they got up early and went through their emails and set up appointments.  Then they would go out and do the interviews they had scheduled for that day and film the bands.  They have tons of footage that did not make it in the film.  They would like to do something with it at some point.

The bands span all genres.  The ones in this film appear to all be trying to do something innovative.  I liked a lot of them, but not all.  I perked up once I saw this guy, Makoto Oshiro, who makes his own very interesting instruments.  He showed us one and I thought the film did a good job of helping explain what was going on.  They actually drew a picture and would go back and forth between Makoto talking and the picture, which helped understand what he was talking about.  The band called dvd was pretty cool.  2 drummers and a visual artists.  There were many more, and you can see something about each of them on the website.

One extremely interesting thing is that when a band gets booked at a Live House, the band has to make up any cash difference if they don't get the required headcount.  Apparently, some of these bands pay the club to get to pay, sometimes as high as $400.  It's called the naruma system.  There is one venue, Enban, that is a purist for the artists.  There is no naruma system in place and the owner lets the artists decide what they want to do and how they do it.  He books a huge variety of music and art including stand-up comics.  I immediately thought of Enban as "The Stone of Tokyo".  Not quite, but it's a space for the artists.  It's also more expensive for a patron to go to a Live House.  It might cost $25 to see your friends in an amateur band.  However, each of these little venues has an excellent sound and light system.  Here's a good article about Live Houses in Tokyo:

Anyway, I enjoyed the film and the Q&A a lot.  There is another screening in SF and then I'm not sure what. 

Here's the website, with lots of good info:

Here's a good gig list for when I make it to Tokyo eventually:
Live From Tokyo is a documentary film about independent music culture in Tokyo.

The documentary looks at Tokyo's music culture as a reflection of Japanese society and in relation to international music culture. In 2009, we find ourselves well into the iPod generation of hyper-connectivity and information culture. The Internet has become a household portal into the endless information of the world. The music industry is plummeting and listeners are accessing and treating music in a new way. Barriers that separated music cultures in the past are becoming less relevant as globalization continues to connect artists. A new paradigm of music culture is upon us. Tokyo's reputation for an overwhelming variety of global information, media-saturated urban environment and cutting edge innovation, makes it the perfect sample for addressing a new outlook on music culture.

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