When I lived in Hatagaya nearly 20 years ago, it certainly had a “neighborhood-in-the-shadow-of-Shinjuku charm” about it, but it had no association at all to sophisticated, classy, posh Yoyogi-Uehara just down the road, nor would I necessarily described it as “hip”, rather quite unassuming and nondescript, salaryman-ish. “Hata-where?” …but all that has changed in these years and now it’s one of the hippest hoods west of the Yamanote, thanks to places like Paddlers Coffee, Freeman Shokudo, and Ella Records.
Needless to say, I love zipping through the ol’ neighborhood nearly every day as it’s on my way home from both Shinjuku or Shibuya, and whenever I do, I’m often met by now-expectedly cool encounters, like the one I had with Ryoki AKA Teresahenn (and Jeffery visited from Beijing who will be featured on the following post). Ryoki and co. were shopping in Ella when I pulled up on my rust-bucket GB250, which I admittedly just love seeing parked out front of Ella’s rustic facade. I popped in and thumbed through the new arrivals. My wallet knew I had no right to start digging deeply, so I was just servicing the monkey on my back and, to my (questionable) defense, staking out new TRS subjects. After the temporary fix, I walked back outside to find Ryoki admiring my hunk-’o-belved-junk. We fired up a conversation and he said he was actually 2-wheeling too, well, actually 3-wheeling, and asked if I wanted to see his ride. Of course, I did, and just behind my shoulder, Ryoki pointed to a wicked cool Honda Canopy scooter, I’m assuming built upon the Honda Gyro platform. It was painted, head-to-toe, in a lovely light mustard yellow, the same yellow I was noticing Ryoki dressed, also from head-to-toe in. “Wow! This is so cool! Tell me about this!” I said, and Ryoki began to share all about it, telling me his ride was a bit inspired by pioneer Hip Hop DJ, “King of Diggin,” the one and only, Muro, (who Royoki has DJ’d with as “Teresahenn” and “Ryokisim”) who shuttles himself around town by similar means, and who was very coincidentally photographed with his Canopy also at Ella earlier this year.
Ryoki proceeded to tell me about his time in both the States and in the UK, and about the subgenre of music called “Wamono”. Wanomo is very hard to articulate exactly because on one hand, it’s quite straight-forward, simply meaning “Made in Japan” and on the other hand, it’s quite nuanced, because it’s not only made-in-Japan, but it’s that notion of a Japan aesthetic that takes influences from all over, whether it be just “The West” or more specifically from Brazil, from France, from Norway, from the East Coast, from the West Coast, from mainland Aisa, from across Africa and Oceana, from its own heritage, north or south, and then toasting, steeping, simmering, and fermenting it into its own distinctly Japanese sense. And not just taking influences at large, but the sub-influences, with the eye and ear for the specific sub-sub genres, that you and I failed to learn more deeply about, that we missed, and that somehow this Wamono remixed aesthetic is informing us for the first time …and I’m not every 100% sure if I got that right, or if it can even be articulated or defined, because I think by its definition, it’s ephemeral and fleeting.
But as far I know, the idea has been infiltrating the Japanese underground scene via lo-fi-hip-hop, chill-hop, deep-soul, deep-cuts, and so on for a decade or more now. Without claiming any kind of music critic creds, I’m guessing the current and massive renewed interest in City Pop now and its permeation throughout the aforementioned genres will either garner its own distinct name in another decade’s time, or it might all just be consolidated under the title, Wamono.
While I was slightly privy to some of these nuances, I really appreciated Ryoki explaining it a bit more clearly to me. By the end of our conversation, he generously determined I was worthy of his latest mix, burned to CD, and beautifully packaged with a thought-provoking design of his own imagination. The mix is called Shirakaba Vol. 1 and it’s truly something special. I have really, deeply enjoyed it over the several listenings that it has taken me on throughout the world and throughout the decades. Thank you, Ryoki for this awesome mix (which is for sale at Disk Union and @ryokism_ybr_teresahenn).
Here are the liner notes:
“The event “Shirakaba” is named after Japan’s first art magazine, also known as Shirakaba, which was published in the 1910s to 1920s and focused on introducing modern art from Western countries and Japanese folk art. One of the editors of “Shirakaba,” Muneyoshi Yanagi, advocated an ideology for his Japanese folk art activities, which he called “Mingei (E ).” His goal was to discover the hidden artistic qualities within Japanese folk cultures by combining an understanding of Western countries’ sense of beauty.
He believed that this process constituted the essence of “Mingei” activities. This ideology shares common ground with specific activities within the hip-hop movements of 1990s Japan. Japanese diggers endeavored to discover rare grooves in Japanese songs, adopting a hip-hop approach.
During the Shirakaba event, DJs will primarily play Japanese rare grooves and rare grooves from all around the world, using the sensibilities developed by delving into Japanese music. It’s a unique event in Tokyo where you can listen to a fusion of dope music from worldwide sources.”
Thanks again, Ryoki! Amazing meeting you and learning more about Wamono. Shirakaba Vol. 1 will no doubt stay in heavy rotation. Looking forward to Vol. 2!
More Tokyo Record Style on the way!
Shirakaba Vol. 1 – Teresahenn as Ryokism
Label: Yellow Birch Records
Format: Mixed CD recorded from Vinyl
Released: Apr 21, 2023
Disk Union: https://diskunion.net/portal/ct/detail/1008769954
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