Raj Ramayya

Raj RamayyaOccupation:
Time in Japan:
5 and a half years

I came to Japan after I had finished university in Canada because I wanted to travel in Asia and had friends here who suggested I stop over on my way. So I got myself a working holiday visa that allowed me to stay for longer than a few months, came here, liked it and started looking for work. Not long after I arrived I got a job singing on a compilation CD for Fuji Pacific and after that I just got as many music jobs as I could. I knew that being a musician was something that I really wanted to do but it took a long time before I started making enough money from it to make ends meet. I' done lots of other stuff in between, lots of unsavory things to earn enough money to live. I don't want to say what they are but you can probably guess.

I had no idea about Japan before I came here and I guess the biggest shock for me when I did arrive was that no-one spoke English. I had thought that because this was a developed nation a lot of people would be able to, but I was amazed at how wrong I had been. To come to terms with that I went to Japanese school and studied for a year and things are a bit better now.

Apart from the language, I guess the kinds of difficulties I've had to learn to overcome have been to do with not knowing what people were getting at in a conversation because they wouldn't come out and say exactly what they were thinking. In Canada we tend to be polite but direct as well; here everyone is indirect and super polite. It's caused lots of misunderstanding where I've perhaps misbehaved at parties or gigs by saying the wrong thing or maybe cracking a joke that wasn't appropriate. That whole indirectness is probably the one thing that I would change about Japan if I could.

The great thing about living in Tokyo is that you can pretty much do what you want to do and to a large extent you can earn money doing it. It's a real struggle in Canada or Britain or America trying to make money doing what you believe in, but in Japan you have the financial security to be able to do things that perhaps you couldn't do in your home country. I know that things like music are super-competitive in other countries, but here the foreign community is really small and people support each other, so basically you're a bigger fish in a smaller pond, which is to your advantage if you're reasonably intelligent. In the West, making it has a lot to do with luck because there are so many people doing what you're doing that the chances of getting noticed are pretty slim. Here it's more about hard work?if you work hard and are genuine, people are willing to give you a chance and that's what I really like about Japan.

Making music is all I do and I don't want to be doing anything else. I guess the best future I can imagine would be one where my band, Shiva Blue, releases a CD and then goes off on tour to support it. Japan's a great base for me as a musician although I don't expect to break into the Japanese market as it seems that they're only interested in foreign musicians who have made it outside of Japan; they can't really understand that someone good could come from within the country. Of course it would be nice if it did happen but in the meantime I'm quite happy to stay here. It's a good place.

Raj Ramayya spoke with Richard James.

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