With 300+ record stores in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, it seems impossible to know them all. When you think you know every shop in a particular area, when you have visited, say 36 different shops in Shibuya alone, and you’re certain there couldn’t POSSIBLY be another one, along on your radar comes the 37th.
Welcome to Coco Isle Music Market, up past the fire station and en route to Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium, run for 20 years by the ever-so-kind Kazuki san. This is a ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, dancehall, roots rock island paradise. While it impresses at every turn of the head, with priceless records all over, signed on-premise and well-wished by the legends themselves, with old film photos tacked on the walls to prove it, it’s also quite quaint and accessible. Kazuki was super warm and welcoming, and even though I was arriving shortly before they closed, he gave me a short tour of the shop, pointing out some of the real treasures, signed albums and posters by Jah Shaka, aka, Zulu Warrior, some of the beautiful artwork, the colorful ones by talented Japanese artist “Miro” @miro45groove, who uses the color blue for his painted portraits as poetic protest against discrimination, saying “Blue is Free, Blue is Nobel, Blue never racial discrimination.” Love it! Kazuki had a large Miro piece of pioneer Jamaican pianist Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson, about who, I only then learned. And another that had me smiling of Ethiopian Emperor and Rastafarian messiah, Haile Selassie I, emerging, evolving, transmorphing out of “OG” “OD”, Lee Scratch Perry. Jah Rastafari!
I told Kazuki about growing up on hometown Reggae legends, “Local Hero” and about going to Tulsa’s annual Reggae Fest for so many years in a row that I, although looked forward to it every year, probably took it for granted, assuming Tulsa could never attract any noteworthy names in Reggae, and thought it was just the best we could ever do. I’d only find out years later that it’s a highly acclaimed event every year that attracts world-class artists and is one of the best and longest-running celebrations of Jamaica and Reggae culture in the States, run by a dedicated and beloved guy called Tim Barraza. Hard to believe, but it’s true, and definitely a part of my DNA.
But even then, I was a fish way out of water in this shop. Rather than gravitating to the few usual Reggae artists I know well, at least by name, and with very little pocket money to splurge, I gave Kazuki my extremely modest budget and asked him to recommend me a single that would get people off their butt and start dancing. Accepting the task, he dug out an original, Made-in-Jamaica 7” on the legendary Coxsone label, The Maytals “Sixth & Seventh Books”, then put it on the giant Coco-Isla sound system, and we had ourselves a two-person soul shakedown party! Good times.
After having such a nice chat and hang, and after perusing all the intriguing accouterments all over the place, Kazuki invited me to try out the best seat in the house, the little chill vibe table next to the window. You could sit at it with your arm hanging out the 4th-floor window as if you were on a road trip, with some good tunes in the background. Had we a spliff, I might have actually sparked it up. The whole vibe was irie.
Thanks, Kazuki. Fun hang. I will most def be back and bring a couple pals with me. Until then, One Love.
More Tokyo Record Style on the way…
The Maytals – Six & Seven Books / My Destination
Label: Coxsone Records – none
Format: Vinyl, 7″, 45 RPM
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