True People's Celebration
An intergenerational spirit characterizes this summer's
most unusual music festival
When Taichi Komatsubara and Hazuki Naito argued over a parking
space as college students in California, it's safe
to say they didn't imagine that a decade later they
would be at the head of one of Japan's most imaginative
music promotion companies.
But since founding Phatleaf after their return to Japan, the
pair have broadened their mission from promoting the jam bands
that came in the wake of the Grateful Dead to presenting improvisational
music of all stripes. Their Organic Groove events have become
a signature part of Tokyo nightlife, bringing a welcome dose
of live performance to the city's dance-music-dominated
With the experience of these events under their belts, Phatleaf
two years ago held their most ambitious event yet. True People's
Celebration brought together a wide range of acts, many of
them with no apparent connection at all. American jazz trio
Medeski, Martin and Wood, Brazilian avant-garde giant Hermeto
Pascoal and noise-rock icon Eye's Boredoms all held
court at an outdoor amphitheater at Yomiuriland in suburban
With the main link between them a musical approach rooted
in improvisation, the two-day festival provided an intriguing
alternative to Japan's mostly genre-based music festivals.
Komatsubara explains that he books artists not based on style,
but with a larger vision. "The concept is true musicianship,
passed from legends to newcomers," he says.
For this reason Phatleaf seeks to create a multigenerational
lineup for TPC, with the elder generation represented this
year by artists such as Indian percussion master Zakir Hussain
and Jamaican reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, who first came to
fame starring in the '70s reggae film The Harder They
Come. Their respective traditions are represented in younger
generations by American tabla player and electronica producer
Karsh Kale, and Japanese dancehall reggae act Mighty Crown.
Also leaning toward the subterranean bass lines of reggae
is the Twilight Circus Dub Sound System, a one-man production
who will be joined by noted New York experimental electronica
producer DJ Spooky. The pair will be offering a live rendering
of their recent album Riddim Clash released by Tokyo-based
The only carryover from the first TPC is the presence of Medeski,
Martin and Wood on the bill. Phatleaf have promoted MMW in
their annual tours of Japan, and the trio's preternatural
improvisations, which bring together the free-form spirit
of jam bands with the accomplished musicianship of jazz veterans,
dovetail perfectly with Phatleaf's musical ambitions.
Another familiar face to Japanese music fans is veteran downtown
New York bassist and producer Bill Laswell, who will be performing
as part of the Tabla Beat Science project, which groups him
together with the aforementioned Hussain and Kale. On the
bill at last month's Fuji Rock Festival with his more
rock-oriented Praxis trio, the mercurial Laswell will be back
yet again at the end of September with fellow New York figure
John Zorn for a weeklong engagement pairing them with a range
of unusual and experimental Japanese musicians at jazz club
Other artists on the bill range from the soaring alt-rock
of Polyphonic Spree, who perform with a full choir, to the
neo-cabaret meets big band jazz of Osaka's eccentric
Ego Wrappin and the Afro-beat rhythms of the Sim Redmond Band.
True People's Celebration multigenerational approach
also extends to its audience. "People over 40 have
a problem going to rock festivals because they're too
crazy to enjoy comfortably," Komatsubara says. "They
say they are interested, but don't want to be stuck
in a mosh pit. We wanted to provide a place for them."
Sep 4 & 5, noon, ¥11,000
(single day), ¥20,000 (both days), ¥40,000 (VIP).
Chichibu Music Park. Tel: Phatleaf 03-3445-1103.
with METROPOLIS readers at http://forum.japantoday.com