Jun Seba

 

Jun Seba (Nujabes) 1974 – 2010

Nujabes was best known for his unique approach to hip hop music and his wonderful blending of musical genres that drew connections between Japan and America. During his career he worked with Japanese artists such as Shing02, Uyama Hiroto, and MINMI. Nujabes also worked with American hip hop legends such as CL Smooth, Five Deez, Substantial, and Apani B to name a few. He died in a car accident on the Shuto Expressway in 2010. I will start by presenting some of his music.

A rare clip of Nujabes talking and singing a bit during a performance with Uyama Hiroto. He was quite an illusive artist and he let his music do the all the speaking.

Another live clip of Nujabes recorded in 2006.

Luv Sic(Part 1-6) The first 3 songs were created while Jun was still alive and 4-6 were recorded after his death to bring closure to his music and pay homage to him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0Kfrj–djw

Think Different feat. Substantial – This is one of my favorite tracks featuring Substantial.

Thank You feat. Apani B – This is my all time favorite Nujabes track. Apani B talks about how truly important music is and it’s just such a wonderful song that captures the essence of Nujabes. THE FEELS

 

A new Japanese American style of music was made and became influenced by Nujabes: through his unique sound that incorporated jazz, hiphop, soul, funk, and other types of sampling that were popular in America, through working with  Japanese and American producers, rappers and singers,  and through producing part of the soundtrack for the anime Samurai Champloo, which was a big hit in Japan and America. All of this culminated to create a powerful and influential new addition to Japanese American music. Samurai Champloo was the perfect anime to be involved with Nujabes and other hip hop artists, as it mixes the world of feudal Japan with a modern world of hip hop, including elements such as graffiti art and rapping. Hip hop has always been tied to resistance throughout history and with my previous studies this year, the importance that music can hold within a community or culture is all too apparent in the case of Nujabes. It gave way for more Japanese, American, and Japanese American artists to create and tell their unique story, whether that was through a beautiful instrumental that captured their heart and soul or through the words of a rapper or singer adding to the collective consciousness that is Japanese American music. Nujabes created music that helped give the Japanese American community a new, positive, constructive representation in a world where many of their struggles and situations go overlooked and forgotten by so many. With his inspiration, a new creative outlet was created for the community and it’s influence has been tremendous, from it’s impact in Japan to it’s impact on hip hop.

Some videos about his impact on the hip hop community and interviews with those who worked with Nujabes before he passed away.

Cise Star talking a bit about his history with Nujabes before the tribute event that was held in Tokyo after Jun’s death. Cise Star featured on one of Nujabes’ most popular tracks “Feather”.

More interviews with artists that worked with Jun at the tribute event. This is trailer for a documentary about Jun called An Eternal Soul.

 

Hafu Film

Diversity in Japan is growing steadily, but the public’s perception of those who are not seemingly Japanese tends to be negative. David, whose mother was from Ghana and father was from Japan, found that unless he was speaking Japanese and smiling, people looked at him as a foreigner. Even when he would hold conversations, the first thing to come up would always be “What are you?” or “Where are you from?”. When he realized that he did not know much at all about Ghana, he decided to travel there, only to realize that he was a “foreigner” there as well. This made him realize that he was truly Japanese. It was where he grew up, it was the language he spoke, and he saw his position as a hafu to bridge a gap between Ghana and Japan. So he started an elementary school and middle school in Ghana and held events and fundraisers to garner the help from Japanese people, since they were so much better off financially. But he realized something….. the amount of suicides in Japan each year was a staggeringly high number while his trips to Ghana showed him that although the people there had less money and less technology, they were full of life and took nothing for granted. This made him even more sure that his purpose in life was to bridge the gap between Ghana and Japan and bring the positive sides from both cultures together the best that he could. This was just one of the solutions that was shown in the movie and the thing I liked best about Hafu was it’s multiple perspectives that showed how different people approach being hafu in Japan.

There were many other stories: One woman was Australian and Japanese, and when she got out of school she decided to travel to Japan and live there; one family had backgrounds from Mexico and Japan but met while studying abroad in America so English was their common ground as far as language goes; one man had Venezuelan roots and ended up making a “Mixed Roots” community in the Kansai region, bringing together a wide range of hafu who could finally have a place to meet people dealing with similar issues; and one woman who had Korean roots that had many difficulties while growing up due to the history and feelings between Korea and Japan. The woman who moved to Japan from Australia ended up realizing that she would never be accepted as Japanese and made foreigner friends. She eventually left Japan after living there for a little over a year. The family with Mexican and Japanese backgrounds had their children learning Spanish, English, and Japanese. Their son, Alexito, got bullied all through his early years of schooling and after the 3rd grade he decided that he wanted to study abroad in Mexico with the hopes of being able to understand himself better. His confidence and self-esteem boosted and when he returned to Japan, he transferred to an international school where the kids and teachers were more accepting and open. The way he was treated in the Japanese school reminded me of Nao from A Tale for The Time Being with the way the kids picked on him and how the teachers never stepped in to help. The man who started the Mixed Roots Kansai community ended up getting married to another hafu and continued to work and build up the community, bringing together people who all became best friends over the years. He eventually gave up his passport to try and become a Japanese citizen, as he finally realized that he didn’t need the passport to be himself. The woman whose father was Korean struggled and continues to struggle with her identity as hafu, but despite that, she continues to press on through life and try to help the community of hafu in Japan. She met many friends through the Mixed Roots Kansai community and started events for mixed race children in order to help them realize that their differences make them special and are nothing to be ashamed of. She eventually married a man from Cameroon and they now have children who come along to her events. These multiple perspectives show the many ways in which hafu in Japan can try to help make things better for themselves, their family, friends, and community as well. Diversity in Japan is growing and with that, a new age of acceptance and understanding is being pushed along by those who have experienced the negativity towards hafu firsthand.

 

http://hafufilm.com/en A link to the film’s website where you can get more information on the film and those involved.

 

 

A trailer for the film. It has subtitles in English and Japanese and I urge anybody interested in this subject to watch this film. I hope that it picks up speed and starts circulating around Japan and around the world. ^_^  Have a happy week all!

Paradise?

Being from the mainland, my only “view” of Hawaii is what the public eye sees. Photos and advertisements like these down below.

If one believes that Hawaii is nothing but a paradise full of surfers , Jack Johnson’s, and tropical fruits, I feel truly sorry for them. Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s novels Blu’s Hanging and Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers tear down that image of pure paradise right from the get go. Not to say that there is no paradise to be found in Hawaii, but her books show a completely different side of Hawaii. A side full of grit, class struggle, perversion, and poverty. Tension between the haole population and those who will never forget how their families were treated while working the cane fields. She writes in a wonderful poetic style while using Hawaiian pidgin that can put the reader right into all the awkward, difficult, and sometimes dangerous situations that her characters are confronted with. Be prepared to have your dreams of Hawaii altered if you’re planning your first vacation off of the mainland, ‘cuz Lois-Ann Yamanaka is here to throw some reality in your face.

 

 

 

F.I.L.O.

F.I.L.O

Lord, if they only knew them nights it took
Burnt candles by the dozen to ignite the soul fire
Sheer energy to release to melt the heart
Mind starved, voice craved onto wax (and still get taxed)
Relax, unrest unless undressed to the core
Ever so slowly, wash away old skin like springs of sulfur
So far so good, what’s life got to offer?
Youth stare curiously analyze the facts
Who’s there to encourage give a pat on their back
How come society wanna grow and ignore small dreams
big team, now every work is a chore
I adore each step, hop skip a cadence
Travel distant in the age of decadence
Do this in reverence to the older veterans
Stripes on their chest plus a chip on their shoulder
Street soldiers cut without severance,
But keep hustling anyways for the L or the F of it
Effervescent light guide the way,
Fear no evil, once lost now found
Like the last man down in the towering inferno of Babylon
First In Last Out

Thirstin’ first drop just wet my appetite
But couldn’t satisfy my craving for beats
Wrap tight like a Christmas gift
‘Tis night is an eve for a generation to uplift
Live life like a testimony
Simple rhymes in difficult times help a friend
Through a lonely tunnel at the end,
Every maze a funnel into a wine bottle
And corked inside a message so mind boggling, a puzzle
Amazed at the grace having reached a goal
Knock twice on the gate heaven preach a soul
True knowledge of self shine brighter than all
For one part getting polished you better the whole
The sum of the characters carry over your role
24-karat gold, each day is a jewel
Case closed when the end credits roll
Self-representative and elected, yes I
Give and get give back to the constituents
Sit you in a chair and break down the affairs
There’s nuthin fashionable
About arriving late in the game and acting OG
Cuz you can’t pay dues with credit or cash
Quicktime soft players streaming all the flash
So I’m sticking copper pins into media outlets
Then I hop up in a black van and I’m out
Let’s get wit the program, shut the Dow Jonesing down
We keep underground dowsing
Microphones iron casting, everlasting sound
Blasting, no doubt
First In Last Out!

F.I.L.O, I’d         rather do nuthin else
If I follow my heart to the last pulse
Like the last man down in the towering inferno of Babylon
First In Last Out

 

 

This is one of my favorite songs by Shing02. His poetry on this track is truly next level, as is most of his work, and the rhyme schemes can be complex and catch one off guard. I feel like this is a perfect way to deliver his message because Shing02 is trying to spread some knowledge with his music and getting people to think and question is essential to that overall goal. He speaks on different levels throughout this song but I will try to pick apart some bits of it.

Relax, unrest unless undressed to the core
Ever so slowly, wash away old skin like springs of sulfur

A Japanese influence can be found here, using nature in poetry goes far back in Japanese culture. Speaking of new beginnings, fresh starts, and how everything takes time but time can heal, just like sulfur hot springs.
So far so good, what’s life got to offer?
Youth stare curiously analyze the facts
Who’s there to encourage give a pat on their back

An obvious concern for the youth of today. With all this information, whether good or bad, skewed or unfiltered, the youth have to find their way through it all. Shingo is asking, “where is the help? where is the guidance?”. He became a part of the hip hop culture in the 90’s and was assisted by those already involved or involved in similar things. He is speaking on the importance of development and finding your own path, one that suits you, but he is also stressing the importance of guidance from others within that circle or just anybody who can help you decipher the world around you, whether it be through music or some other outlet.
How come society wanna grow and ignore small dreams
big team, now every work is a chore
I adore each step, hop skip a cadence
Travel distant in the age of decadence

As society “progresses” we lose sight of the whole picture. Small dreams vs. big teams turns life into a chore, or bore. He could be speaking about corporations, mass media, or any other issues revolving around the deterioration of culture and how our busy age has maybe lost sight of how to enjoy and improve our own lives. He then is talking about how he strives to “adore each step” and “hop skip a cadence”; not take things for granted and move through life with a rhythm that is natural to him. Understanding what he has and having fun with it too, despite the evils in the world. He has traveled to distant places in this age of degeneration and has witnessed many things firsthand and it’s these experiences that have shaped who he is today.
Do this in reverence to the older veterans
Stripes on their chest plus a chip on their shoulder
Street soldiers cut without severance,
But keep hustling anyways for the L or the F of it

This could be seen as paying respects to those who paved the way . It could also be read as reverence to those who have fought, whatever their battles may have been. “Street soldiers cut without severance” = people who have been keeping up the “good fight”, who have gone without being noticed, respected, or paid for their efforts. “But keep hustling anyways for the L or the F of it” For the L.ove or the F.uck of it. Paying reverence to those who push on no matter the obstacles and no matter their reason, whether it be a love of something or just simply their way of life.
Effervescent light guide the way,
Fear no evil, once lost now found
Like the last man down in the towering inferno of Babylon
First In Last Out

The title of the song comes from this. F.irst I.n L.ast O.ut. I see this as representing the idea of being first in and last out as giving your all into something no matter the consequences. Maybe? Interpreting lyrics can be difficult, just like reading a novel like Ozeki’s, because so much is left up to the reader to decide what they get out of it. But I would say the image of “like the last man down in the towering inferno of Babylon” gives me an imagery similar to the phrase “Skate or Die”. Stick to your guns and be in it until the bitter end; for the others within the circle, for yourself and your own mental health, for the betterment of the community as a whole, for the betterment of the world. Don’t be artificial and don’t let the big teams keep you from your small dreams.

 

 

Shing02

Shing02 is one artist in particular that I will most likely be revisiting from time to time during this blog. So I will make a post here to introduce him to those who may not be familiar with him and his music. If you have ever watched the popular anime Samurai Champloo then you have been hearing Shing02 without knowing who he is. :] The theme song, Battlecry, was produced by Nujabes and features the emcee Shing02.

“Some days, some nights. Some live, some die in the way of the samurai. Some fight, some bleed, sun up to sun down. The sons of a battlecry.”

Shingo Annen is his birth name and he was born in Tokyo during the mid 70’s. But he definitely did not stay put as a child. Shingo found himself living in places like Tanzania and London by the time he turned 15. He then moved to the San Francisco Bay area and eventually studied at Berkeley. It was around this time that he became a part of the hip hop scene. I will let him speak for himself though.

 

Since the nature of this stuff is really embedded in the music, I’m going to post a few more videos and save the talking for a later post. You may have noticed that Shing02 mentions working with Nujabes in that first video. You can expect to learn more about him in the coming weeks as well. :]

Fat & Slim of The Pharcyde on a track with Shing02 and Emi Meyer? Hell yes.

Shing02 and Emi Meyer performing the song Luv (sic) part 4 at the Asian American Music Festival in 2010. Shing02 has done a lot of music with Emi Meyer, another Japanese American artist.

 

I will end with a link that should give you access to all things Shing02. http://www.e22.com/shing02/

My Year of Meats: Discussion Questions

1. Think about some of the male characters in My Year of Meats. There is Suzuki, who has a “passion for Jack Daniel’s, Wal-Mart, and American hard-core pornography”; Oh, who is Suzuki’s drinking companion; and Joichi Ueno, Akiko’s violent husbands with a fondness for Texas strippers. Do these characters’  affinity for pornography reflect the way that they relate to women?

Yes, yes, and yes. Porn is riddled with the fantasies of men fulfilling their sexual desires. Notice how the focus there is on men. Men dominating women, reducing them to nothing more than an object to obtain and control for sexual pleasure. There is no “love” in porn; it’s a hands off sort of engagement. Not to mention all the women around the globe who have been black mailed and exploited with sexual tapes. This TedxTalk might help explain some of the issues with the porn industry.

2. Early in the novel, Jane says, “All over the world, native species are migrating, if not disappearing, and in the next millennium the idea of an indigenous person or plant or culture will just seem quaint.” Do you believe this is true? If so, do you perceive it as a step toward a more peaceful, accepting world, or as a step away from a diverse, well-textured world? Is it possible to maintain cultural diversity without prejudice?

I think that this is somewhat true. With the globalization of media and global economy, people are probably moving around the world more than ever before. Species of plants are being brought to new lands, fish are being transferred from the wild rivers and lakes of the Amazon to people’s home aquariums, and people have the ability to fly anywhere on the map within a day or two. But I am not sure if this will make the world a grey one. And it is in no fashion or form a way to make the world more peaceful. Raising awareness and spreading knowledge would probably be the key to a more accepting world. As far as the world losing it’s diversity, no matter how much mixing and matching is going, new things will always being surfacing. Fusion if you will. I like to think of it in relation to hip hop. Cutting, chopping, and mixing samples of old soul records brought new life to a classic sound. The more hip hop evolves, the more new things spring to life. Producers are at the head of creation when it comes to breathing life into old sounds. Thus is the way of the “new world”. As long as people are sure to bring whatever they can to the table from their own families history and culture, the world will continue to evolve. I’ll post some examples of skilled producers playing Rhythm Roulette and creating some awesome new sounds of albums that they picked up at random. Adaptability is the key to this evolution.

These discussion questions were found in the back of the book. It’s the Penguin Readers Guide edition.