Saturday, 28 April 2012

Live show at Louto in Hiroshima & thoughts about the city...

A lovely show today,
The first of three with Naoto Kawate...

Kuniaki-San and Yukie-san put us on in their beautiful little gallery, Louto, in central Hiroshima.

Naoto's prepared his guitar with metal twisted around the strings (like bottle caps on bike spokes), giving it a percussive sounds great.
It's been a couple of years since I've seen him live and it's been worth the wait...

We arrived a little late as watering Naoto's allotment took longer than planned. Gomen nasai, Kuniake-San!

It's my second time in Hiroshima:
the first time I came I went to both the peace museum and the former trade promotion hall which is below the epicentre of the atomic bomb dropped on the 6th August 1945.
Due to some principle I don't yet understand and need to research, that building survived (or most of it) and I remember being really affected by it but didn't quite put my finger on why...
I'm no wise, wizened old traveller but I've been a few places, seen a few things, read a few books and papers - the killing fields in Cambodia were harrowing, seeing a man in Bristol have his throat slit was horrible, having my nose smashed by muggers with a baseball bat was a pain in the nose; there's a longer list here, but when you enter into Hiroshima, it's like any modern Japanese city - there's no way you could tell it was completely razed at the end of WWII- it bustles and it's impressive and it's full of colourful people and it's also ugly and has too many cars; it's somewhat generic and typical of any city.
And that's why it's so affecting to stand by that monumental ruin - to think that the city was also alive like this before it got flattened and then rebuilt.
Not by some immense and uncontrollable force of nature, not by an army of men, but by one small and incredibly powerful bomb, artificial and completely lacking in discrimination, obliterating people, objects, flora and fauna.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Kyoto, sunny day, tour preparation and news...

It`s a sunny day in Kyoto,
I`m staying at Naoto Kawate`s house and am excited about our tour together which starts tomorrow...

Hear Naoto below via soundcloud or at his bandcamp:

He`s my favourite guitarist, witty and experimental, and he`s a kind and thoughtful friend.

Hear me here (my latest release):

And a short video of today, practicing kora in Naoto`s house overlooking Kyoto:

I`m very happy to have been asked to play some shows with Harada Ikuko-Sama,
so I`ve extended my stay in Japan until the 22nd of May.
There`s a show in Tokyo on the 3rd, I don`t yet have the full details,
and one in Fukuoka at circle festival on the 19th. Tanoshimi!

Here are some photos from the last few days:

Monday, 23 April 2012

Here we are 45 cafe, Toyama with our friend Kanoko Inoue...

Last nights show was another great one -

our friend Kanoko Inoue (have a look at her beautiful website here) who`s been living in Bristol has recently returned to Japan,
and we played at her mother Wakako`s cafe - 
Here we are 45 cafe.

Kano is a great saxophonist and has played with Rachael a lot in Bristol - 
so it was lovely to see that again in Japan,
and at the end of the night we all played together - steel pan, kora, clarinet, saxophone...

Last night we made a new friend - Momo, she drew this picture of us playing our music and joined in on the piano...          Thanks Momo!

Here`s another video from piñon-pinon that Rachael shot of me playing a kora instrumental:

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Pinon-pinon and the happiness it brings... 21/04/12

Last night was my favourite gig of this tour so far -
at piñon-pinon, run by our friends Jun and Kite-san -
kite-san is also a member of the wonderful band POPO,
I`ve spent countless happy hours cooking in my kitchen and driving between towns listening to them.

The last time I came to Japan I played here and was overwhelmed by the atmosphere -
cosmos flowers everywhere and kamakiri (praying mantis) hiding amongst them;
it was my first time meeting these insects in the wild and I couldn`t wipe the smile off my face...

This time the cosmos were just beginning to sprout and there was no praying mantis to be seen,
but it was just as friendly and welcoming. Jun told me Tsuruga ia a windy city and it was,
the same hut we performed in is where I slept and it rattled all night...
In the morning I ran to the coast, through pine trees, and came back to practice some music whilst the rain fell and the wind rattled around me...

The song, a cover, is by Josephine Foster - I don`t generally play it live,
but like to sing it alone in places where I`m a guest and feeling welcome -
"I am a guest in here...":


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Cafe yugue show in Kyoto

Yesterday and the night before we stayed in Kyoto at our friend, the guitarist Naoto Kawate's house... He lives in a beautiful house at the foot of the hills - lush and green with lots of temples and shrines nearby.

I've not had much spare time in Kyoto before so it was good to spend the day wandering about - the city has a calm feeling to it, spacious and close to the green hills. A bit like Bristol in England if it's not too tenuous a comparison... Onimichi in the south gave me a similar feeling, so perhaps it's just the buildings on hills and proximity to water?
Still, Kyoto has an exciting buzz to it whilst managing a sense of calm, and that's one of the reasons I love Bristol so much.
A hilly, wooded walk to start the day; blossom, jelly-like fungus and forked paths which led us eventually to the top of the art college which spans the declivity with its modern and impressively tree-sensitive architecture.

We played in cafe yugue in the evening:

Run by our friend Dai-Chan, who makes the best bagels in Kyoto (or possibly the world)... It'd be hard to tell it was a cafe if you didn't know about it - it's inconspicuous from the outside and has a weathered, unfussy feeling, Dai is always playing something great on the stereo and everything tastes inordinately delicious.

The homeliness of yugue always makes for a great show - relaxing - I think this is my fourth time playing here and I've loved it every time...

Friday, 20 April 2012

Irukaike video: Jam session on kora, pakhawaj and violin...

Close to the beautiful lake Irukaike near Nagoya,
we had Hanami by the riverside followed by this jam session -
Japan meets India meets England meets West Africa...
Tetsuya Kaneko on Pakhawaj, Yuki Kaneko on violin, Will Newsome on kora.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cafe jaaja (16/04/12) and the incredible Tet-San on his pakhawaj.

Cafe jaaja is run by members of this incredible band jaaja:

They tour around the world by hitch-hiking and have appeared in the back garden of the house I used to share with Rachael in Bristol before...

So Monday started with some brilliant songs from Jaaja,
after which I played my solo set,
and then - ICHI, the night before, had introduced me to his old friend Tet-San, who plays the pakhawaj, a large two headed drum which predates the tabla, and needs an uncooked chapati to be placed on the bass end to reach the required depth of tone...amazing instrument and Tet-San is an incredible musician  -picking up rhythmic phrases from the kora, echoing and elaborating on them, and generally being extremely sensitive with his art...
Here`s a photo expressing how I felt about playing with him - like he was feeding me with some kind of raw musical energy...

Yesterday was also spent with Tet-San and his wife Yuki; we had Hanami (a picnic celebrating spring) by a river -side not far from Nagoya, but far enough to not hear any cars. Yuki plays violin in Indian style, so we all had a jam session together in the sun - clarinet, violin, steel-pan, pakhawaj and kora. 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Show with Table Music Meeting at Gallery Kaya in Anjo

This is the third time I`ve been on tour in Japan, and I`m very happy to have played with Table Music Meeting each time in the beautiful gallery Kaya in Anjo...

The song in this video is, for me, like table music meeting`s theme tune, and it always makes me smile...

ICHI played one of my favourites - his love-song for kinkun (kumquats)...

Naho from table music meeting also made us badges...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

ICHI`s exhibition now open at Hankachi in Nagoya...

ICHI`s exhibition is now open at Hankachi!

it`s brilliant -

a kind of re-imagined Jack and the beanstalk...

Hankachi is -

a beautiful shop/gallery in Nagoya -

there are lots of other beautiful and tasty things

there too - fair-trade coffee and chocolate

hand made clothes using fairtrade

and recycled fabrics...

There are also some clothing collaborations with 

Rachael Dadd for sale, and beautiful pottery

made by Kite-san

of the amazing `Popo` and Pinon-Pinon

where we play later this month.

Please go and visit if you`re in Nagoya or nearby -

there`s a map below

with more details.

ICHI has a shop set up

selling his CDs,

handmade leather key-rings

and other things...

Flyhoop live at Monokoto in Osu, Nagoya (13/04/12)...

Last night we played flyhoop,
ICHI`s improvisational side-project...

It`s performed to cine-film projections,
ICHI playing steel pan and glockenspiel,
Naoyasu Ishida on vibraphone and gamelan,
Rachael Dadd on clarinet and percussion,
myself on the Kora...

Here`s a live recording - you`ll have to imagine the projections...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Solo show at sambatown in Nagoya as guest for small color...

Today I played a show as guest performer for Small Color, on the left here - their music is very beautiful and I'm honoured that they asked me to play...

Have a look/listen at their website      here

This was in a small venue in Endoji, Nagoya, called Sambatown, run by the lovely Zezi and providing a space for lovers of Brazilian and Argentinian music and culture (though neither myself or small color fitted into that today...)

Zezi is a big fan of Sake and so we had a tasting session of his collection - I walked home more drunk than I've been so far on this visit to Japan,
and I learnt the very important word oochiage (after-party.)

Here's a video of Small Color playing one of their songs :

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Cafe TAC show in Suwa, Nagano...

Bongo-San organised us a lovely gig in the French style cafe TAC - Suwa is a quiet lakeside town up in the mountains, bongo grew up here and there was no music scene at the time. He's made it his mission to fill that hole. He's a very enthusiastic listener and really moves to the music, making me and Rachael grin from ear to ear...

The next day, Thai curry made with baby bamboo for breakfast in a cafe joined to a beautiful pottery workshop.
Because rent is less, rates are lower and many old buildings are unoccupied, it's a lovely feature of Japan that so many young people can set up shop/cafe/workshop with relative ease...often people run places as a kind of hobby, like a gift to the community.

From Suwa, we headed to a honey-bee museum further into the hills. Rachael had led us to believe that there was a sort of bee-whisperer asking bees to build sculptures (with some kind of waggle dance!?) it isn't so but the reality is just as incredible - this bee expert has learnt how to direct bees to build structures in certain places and shapes and how to persuade queens to work together in harmony, allowing him to build the largest nests in the world, and they really are immense, fantastical structures.

Back in Nagoya last night we saw an incredible dance performance by Taro Morita - the dancer was between a thin white sheet in front and two OHPs behind, and the projector was using some really innovative techniques to create patterns of light - powders, liquids, fans and massage tools. The confluence between the two circles and the silhouette of the dancer making some beautiful, contorted and emotive movement and shape. The choreography between the light and the dancer was really tight - in one scene the dancer picks out a ball of light from the top of the scene and carries it, growing, into the centre... This show was in a great little venue - KD Japon - which is underneath a train track, making the building rumble softly with each train, adding to the atmosphere and making me feel like I'm lost somewhere inside Belleville rendezvous.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Kichimu show and the last happy apples...

Today Japan had a moderate typhoon, it's unusual in spring-time.
People are wary of the rain as it carries some radioactivity. People often use umbrellas, but here near Tokyo, the sight of so many clear plastic umbrellas (which appear to me to be standard issue) gives the street view an unsettling dystopian air.

In typhoons, overground trains are halted, so we were prepared for a quiet show- the venue was full however, and Harada Ikoko-San and Tonchi played a beautiful set with fascinating vocal play, piano, steel-pan and loop effects.
All our music went down well and we joined together at the end of the night to sing a traditional Japanese springtime song -
'haru ga kita, - spring is coming
doko ni kita? - where is it coming?
Yama ni kita. - to the mountains
Sato ni kita. - to the countryside
No nimo kita. - and then grass grows


We were cooked a delicious meal after the show - ninjin with bhutan (carrot with a Japanese citrus like grapefruit), spaghetti, a type of squash with fried cabbage and vinegar, and then the most poignant, bittersweet apple juice one can imagine - clear as amber, served with a cube of ice and a little cherry blossom - from the last batch of Fukushima apple juice before the nuclear disaster last spring.

So today was wonderful but also provoked contemplation on this serious nuclear issue - the umbrellas, apple juice and talk from Rachael of how some parts of Tokyo are contamination hotspots on par with Chernobyl, culminating, for me, in a more tangible understanding of the issue here and what is at stake.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Myojou library show in Atsumi Hanto near Tahara city

Atsumi Hanto is a small town near tahara city and famous for it's cabbages and shellfish...the oranges grow all year and the kumquats are delicious.
We played in myojou library/gallery, run by the lovely masami-San- she made onigiri for the audience, stuffed with shellfish and ume boshi (sour plum).

Here are a couple of videos from ichi's set:
Umbrella love:

and his finale with help from lao-chan:

We stayed the night with sakuroko and kanji Matsumoto - sakuroko is a florist and kanji carves wood - they walked us around the local area which is beautiful, rural, also half deserted as the young people of Japan are choosing not to live in the countryside.
Below are some photos of our show, the surrounding area and our new friends...