Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Past Issues

801: Acid Mothers Temple
800: Rockin' In Yokohama
797: The Madame Cats
793: Wyolica
790: Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro
789: My Way My Love
786: Lite
785: Kat
784: Pantheon of Japanese Rock Babes
782: Vinyl Idyll
781: Hikashu
780: 54-71
778: Utacata
776: Yoko Ono
775: Boredoms
772: Kurofunedan
768: Merzbow
766: Oshiripenpenz
765: YMCK
763: Shizuka Kudo
762: Mo'some Tonebender
761: Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
756: Tokyo Conflux 2008
754: Ed Woods
753: 8otto
751: Para
750: Fuji Rock Festival 2008
748: Katan Hiviya
745: Who the Bitch
742: Low IQ 01
740: Shake Forward!
738: iLL
736: Tobu Ongakusai
733: Yanokami
731: One Night in Naha
729: Shugo Tokumaru
727: Japan Nite
725: Getting out the vote
723: J-Melo
721: Electric Eel Shock
717: GO!GO!7188
715: Yura Yura Teikoku
712: Midori
710: Seigen Ono
708: Wrench
707: Shinichi Osawa
704: M-flo
701: Freesscape
699: Versailles
698: Fuji Rock Festival 2007
697: Uri Nakayama
695: UA
693: Shonen Knife
690: Kemuri
689: Ikochi
686: Best Japanese Albums
684: Monkey Majik
682: Shibusashirazu Orchestra
681: Jon Lynch and Juice magazine
677: DJ Kentaro
675: Sadistic Mikaela Band
673: Osaka Monaurail
672: Teriyaki Boyz featuring Kanye West
666: Oki
662: Amanojaku
659: Polysics
657: Oceanlane
655: Cornelius
651: Bomb Factory
642: Soul Flower Mononoke Summit
640: African JAG
637: Buffalo Daughter
635: Ryukyu Underground
633: Mazri no Matsuri
631: Mono
629: Coldfeet
628: Crystal Kay
625: J-pop goes def
623: Ken Yokoyama
621: Zazen Boys
619: Monday Michiru
613: PE'Z
611: Afrirampo
609: Sherbets
603: Double Famous
601: Meltone
599: Michiyo Yagi
597: Hifana
594: Guitar Wolf
592: Rip Slyme
590: Little Creatures
588: Bliss Out on Hougaku
586: Hoppy Kamiyama
584: Bliss Out on Hougaku
582: Mazri no Matsuri
580: Mari Natsuki
575: Towa Tei
573: The Beautiful Losers
571: Fantastic Plastic Machine
569: Nippop
567: Brahman
560: Shonen Knife
558: Nice Guy Jin
556: Toru Yonaha and Kinohachi
554: Hiromi Uehara
551: Nicotine
549: Ego-Wrappin'
545: Eastern Youth
538: Inside tracks
536: Outside the Box
534: Rainbow Warrior
529: Breaking the mold
527: Sadao China
524: The sound of cyberpunk
522: Ryuichi Sakamoto's Chasm
516: Ken Yokoyama
514: Jan Linton
512: Jazz messengers
509/10: Naoko Terai
507: Akiko Yano
504: Kotaro Oshio: Solo Strings
502: Refurbished rhythms
494: Resonance
492: cyber-swordsmen
490: Loop Junktion
488: Ryukyu Underground: Okinawan Odyssey
484: Gocoo: Reinventing taiko
481: Leonard Eto
479: Gaijin à Go-Go
477: Enemy music
475: Yoriko Ganeko with Chuei Yoshikawa
472: DJ Kaori
469: Yuki
467: Wrench
464: Young and swingin
462: Jazzy Live 2003 from Blue Breath
460: Shonen Knife
457/458: Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden
456: Yuka Kamebuchi & The Voices of Japan
454: Jude
452: Kokoo
451: BBQ Chickens
449: Man and the machinery
446: Crystal Kay
443: Lava
440: Jazz on Leave
437: Rip Slyme
434: Boom Boom Satellites
432: "Rambling" Steve Gardner
430: Dry & Heavy
428: The Birth of OE
426: Anmitsu
424: Happy Kamiyam
422: Shing02
420: Supercar
418: Ryuichi Sakamoto
416: Kick The Can Crew
414: King Brothers
412: Kazufumi Miyazawa
410: Japanese Independent Music
408: The Yoshida Brothers
406: Love Psychedelico
393: Mikidozan
391: Shelter 10th Anniversary
389: The beautiful losers
387: Junpei Shiina
383: Umekuichi
381: P'ez
379: Boredoms
377: Dai Sakakibara
375: Dreams Come True
373: eX-Girl
370: Pizzicato Five
368: Dub Squad
366: Buffalo Daughter
364: Phew Phew L!ve
362: Fumio Yasuda
360: Boom Boom Satellites
358: Kei Kobayashi
356: Cool Drive Makers
354: Bird
351: United Future Organization
349: Audio Active
347: Ondekoza
345: Misia
343: Brahman
341: Puffy
339: Ryukyu Festival 2000
337: Rappagariya
335: Lisa Ono
333: Air Jam 2000
331: Feed
327: Tenkoo Orchestra
325: Wrench
323: Sadao Watanabe
321: Dry & Heavy
319: Bonny Pink
317: Sakura Hills Disco 3000
315: Aco
313: Rovo
311: The Mad Capsule Markets
309: Coldfeet

By Dan Grunebaum

Enter the strange vocal world of Koichi Makigami at your own risk

Courtesy of Smash

“Is he daft?”

Many uninformed concertgoers have no doubt asked themselves the same question that this writer posed to himself on witnessing Koichi Makigami perform for the first time some years ago. The occasion was a gig by notorious downtown Manhattan noise-meister, sax player, music impresario, and onetime Japan resident John Zorn.

Zorn had invited vocalist Koichi Makigami to join one of his occasional residencies at famed Shinjuku jazz club Pit Inn. With Zorn and co. honking and scratching away, Makigami emitted a stream of vocalizations that sounded like equal parts birdcall and the speaking-in-tongues of the clinically insane.

But in a studio after a recent Hikashu rehearsal in Tokyo, the band’s frontman—the word “singer” doesn’t quite do justice to his range of skills—proves decidedly rational. “In 1974 at age 18, I went to London to participate in the Fringe Theater,” he explains. “It was a time when improvisation and theater were becoming intertwined. I appeared in a performance in which the entire dialog was gibberish. It was a big influence, and I formed my own group on returning to Japan.”

That group turned out to be Hikashu, the avant-pop act that, along with the Yellow Magic Orchestra, was one of a number of bands creating a futuristic new sound in the ’70s. But where YMO looked for inspiration in the sweeping melodies of Kraftwerk, Hikashu was more partial to the zany escapades of psychedelic warriors like Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

“We were influenced by the experimental currents of the era,” Makigami (below, second from right) recalls. “We use the term ‘pataphysics’ to explain our music. The word was coined by French writer Alfred Jarry and means the study of what lies beyond metaphysics—Jarry intended it as a parody of modern science. We want to do something that can’t be judged by normal standards.”

No one could deny that, if Hikashu were to be judged by normal standards, words like “silly” and “bizarre” would apply. But at a time when humor seems sorely lacking in pop music, Hikashu remains one of the busier groups in Japan. “We get invited by young bands to play together a lot,” says guitarist Freeman Mita. “They seem to find us intriguing. The generation directly [after] us was never very interested, but the current generation has rediscovered us.”

When Makigami is not busy with Hikashu, he’s occupied with a solo career that will see him travel this year from New York to Romania and on to Cambodia and Spain for work and study. An impish onstage persona cloaks an ambition to learn demanding vocal techniques from cultures around the world.

For example, Makigami is a master of the otherworldly singing tradition of Tuva, an area of Siberia bordering Mongolia. The Tuvans split their voice into multiple harmonics, an effect that Makigami deploys along with clicks, shouts, guffaws—and even just traditional singing—to provide an arresting accompaniment to the likes of Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, whom he recently jammed with at the Where Is The Music? Festival in Ebisu.

“I’ve been studying Tuvan throat singing for more than ten years—this year I won a prize from the Tuvan culture authority,” enthuses Makigami, who also arranges visits by Tuvan musicians to Japan. “There are a lot of traditions that interest me. For example, in Iran, they have a style that sounds like birdsong, and in South Africa there is a technique in which you create very deep vibrations. It’s important to actually go to these places yourself. Just copying styles from records isn’t enough.”
Zorn has been an ardent supporter since the ’80s, releasing Makigami’s albums on his Tzadik label overseas and bringing him over for tours of the US. In 2005, Makigami was even the subject of a weeklong festival in New York that saw him take part in improvisational face-offs with some of the city’s most able musicians.

In Japan, too, Makigami’s resume includes numerous collaborations with the country’s more forward thinking composers and theatrical directors. The one constant in his peripatetic career is Hikashu, which he formed with mates from high school in Odawara, the city he still lives in south of Tokyo. Hikashu has never broken up and still performs regularly.

What’s the secret to their longevity? “For one, we’ve gotten better and better; and two, we don’t allow ourselves to be influenced by what people say about us,” Makigami muses. “It’s hard not to be affected by what other people say when you’re young, but as you get older you realize what it is that you really want to do.”

Hikashu plays Star Pine’s Café on April 1. Koichi Makigami joins John Zorn at Pit Inn on April 9. See concert listings (jazz/world) for details. For more info, see

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