I’ve started a Masters course at UCL this month. It feels strange to go back to school at this point in my life, but I have always been interested in the course that I enrolled in, which is Translation (with Interpreting). Having spent 3 years in America as a child, I was obsessed with English even after coming back to Japan, constantly learning new vocabularies through music and movies. When I went away to college in London, I found British English to be completely different from American English, and realized the importance of understanding the cultural background.
I have been writing songs in two languages, and grew a passion to pursue contextual study of these bilingual processing, which lead to the decision to enrol in this course.
Needless to say, UCL has prestigious history including welcoming Japanese students in the late 19th century which lead to the establishiment of the modern Japanese government system. I love how some of the majors are really specific and enthusiast of one of the most niche fields of study.
It’s a big shift from having studied Fine Art for undergraduate course, but I feel truly lucky to have this chance to study at this point in my life. There must be so much art in this field of study too, and am determined to make the most of this opportunity.
Michael Jackson was one, and at the end of the day, aren’t all artists Peter Pans?
Let’s review the term. According to Wikipedia, Peter Pan syndrome is the pop-psychology concept of an adult who is socially immature. In a book by Psychologist Dan Kiley, The Wendy Dilemma (1984), he advises women romantically involved with “Peter Pans” how to improve their relationships. I wish I had this book when I was hearing stories from my tormented friends who were dating musicians.
But to be honest, I’ve always felt somewhat socially inadequate calling myself an artist. Although I’m more than grateful to have been able to continue this since I was a teenager, I can’t help but to think that unless you are successful enough to make a real-life Neverland (like Micheal Jackson), this certain insecurity seems to grow as you get older. In fact, wasn’t that insecurity the very thing that made him build Neverland?
Being a child at heart is a wonderful thing, as long as you share and respect others. In that regards, artists are the advocates of such playfulness. But Neverland is a troublesome, dangerous place. that’s why the pixie dust is the key to connect to the outside world; thus, artists may aspire to be Tinker-Bells rather than Peter Pans.
The Japan tour once a year has successfully finished-two sold out shows in Tokyo and Kobe. Tokyo venue was a planetarium, Konica Minolta “Tenkuu” with a 360-degrees-dome screen above the audience projecting constellations, flower petals, moonlit skies and ocean waves…it was truly fantastic and was one of the most memorable gigs I’d ever done. I played the keyboard and acoustic guitar, accompanying violin and cello, two talented and graceful musicians.
Kobe venue was a traditional Japanese architecture estate, Soshuen, historical venue used for wedding receptions. Looking out into the Japanese garden, crickets announcing the beginning of the autumn season, I sat in front of the grand piano, with the audience seated in round tables just like an actual wedding reception.
Despite having the 9-month-gap since the last time I played in Japan, I recognized familiar faces in the audience who have supported me for many years. I was truly grateful, at the same time thought a lot about what I should do next.
Everyone I meet in Japan is super-nice, police, supportive and truly genuine. I have to be honest and say that it doesn’t always work like that in the UK. Then why am I in the UK? I have to bring things into focus, and the purpose of my life in the UK at the moment is to get a foothold as an artist there, and to drive activity in my music career. I’ve had an incredible opportunity to release an EP, meet some amazing supporters, and ideally would love to tour and release an album from next year. I aspire to accomplish something that no other Japanese artist has achieved. At the same time, I need to cherish and continue what I have in Japan.
You find a solid ground, dig down, set up the pillars and make the foundation, put a roof on top…the finishing touches of exterior and interior is all done by the fans, and that’s when the home is finally established. The process is so extensive that it takes at least 10 years. In that sense, a home has finally been built for Rie fu in the recent years. It’s not a huge mansion, but it’s cozy and refined, warm exterior and interior done by the elegant and intelligent fans, a true treasure for me.
I’m sensing this fear that it could be an empty nest while I’m living abroad, and this is what I realized through this year’s Japan tour.
The solution to this is to find a “property management”for this home while I’m away. I’m considering working with third parties about this, between companies, rather than a more traditional manager/label to artist relationships.
I’m devoted to maintaining my responsibility towards this beautiful home the fans helped me to build and support.
On the contrary, my activity in the UK as Rié is only at the initial stage. I’ve only found a place that could potentially be my piece of land. But to be honest, I can’t afford to take 10 years to finish building a new home. I am hoping I could use my experience and background of my career in Japan of to generate more speed and power.
I’m releasing new tracks over these couple of weeks under the two names Rie fu and Rié. The timing was not intended, it just happened to be around the same time. In order to avoid any confusion, I will explain what the differences of these two projects are about.
The story behind the two separate names were explained in this article.
The easiest way to explain the differences of the two projects is, that I want to create;
Good songs with Rie fu
Extraoridinary songs with Rié
Personally speaking, a good song is not good enough to release in the U.K. Market—a good song is just a good song, nothing more. In a country that spawned extraordinary artists-whether it’s Pink Floyd, Turner, or Damien Hurst-every single one of them, almost without exception, have done something simply “different”. As a foreigner from a country very far away from the U.K, my identity would be already considered different. That’s why I can’t and should not fit into any genre nor replicate other styles, and focus on being unique.
When I was in Japan, especially when I was working with a major label, I was always conscious of genres and formats of pop music. As a result, I had lost a part of my originality. I fled from the label to establish my own environment, and that’s when I realized that The game is over once you start thinking about selling yourself. That’s because when you start thinking about such thing, you would always refer to what’s already popular. I have no objection towards the industry and people that replicate a selling-format, but it just wasn’t for me.
However, I have crossed continents to discover that such format is just as well popular here in the U.K. The speed of trend-shift is much faster than Japan, but the tendency to follow the format that’s already selling is even more obvious and contrived. That in itself seems to me as a trial worth challenging. All groundbreaking art are destined to draw criticism, and they become outstanding achievements because they over come those obstacles.
How do they percieve uniqueness in Japan? Good things are good, but different things are also just different, nothing more, technically speaking. Even if you overcome the criticism and create something unique and groundbreaking, that’s just another different thing, no other value added. You see, that doesn’t mean that the Japanese appreciation of art is boring, but it’s actually a very significant characteristic amongst the virtues of Japanese culture.
These two characteristics combined are what my mind consist of, and I cannot wait to discover more through pursuing these two styles.
This was my very first live performance since the EP release. I’ve missed playing live so much, so this was such a great opportunity. If songwriting is writing a story, live is the ver act of storytelling, there’s nothing more liberating than this!
Initially, I was rehearsing with the amazing producer Cassel the Beatmaker on the sampler, then we felt we needed bass…Chris (bassist) was kind enough to participate at a few days’ notice. It was a pleasure to play with both of them, as well as the efficient filming crew.
You can watch the live performance and read the article here.
こちらはライブというよりはエキシビションだが、Victoria & Albert Museum でのPink Floyd展も良かった。前回のビートルズ展同様、ゼンハイザーがスポンサーとなり、参加者に渡されたヘッドフォンが展示に近づくと反応する仕組みになっている。周りの音を気にせず、それぞれのペースで音楽とドキュメンタリーを楽しめる。最後の部屋ではヘッドフォンを外し、3D音像でみんなでライブ体験ができるというのも粋な演出だ。
The reality that doesn’t necessarily meet the dream for a start-up artist could be a something that no artist writes about. Because they need to keep the perfect image, especially the “couldn’t care less” image. Well, I’m way passed that age of having to pretend not to give a shit, and I like to analyze and be open about what I do.
So this is yet another candid blog about the reality after releasing my first EP. The numbers are very transparent in this day and age. The most support that I’m getting for the EP is from Japan, always such amazing loyal fans, also Asia, as well as U.S and unexpectedly, Brazil. I’m still working on how I can grow more U.K audience, because I would really love to start performing soon(but not it in an empty venue!).
I was pleasantly surprised by getting feedback from one of the best indie music publications here, and it’s always interesting to read their take on my music as well as the Japanese music scene itself. Not to be too conscious about being Japanese, though this made me realize the importance of storytelling as an artist from such part of the world, because most Japanese bands and artists are about uniqueness, energy and quirkiness, but hardly any of them play music like they’re actually sitting down and talking to you, in a more down-to-earth way. The first EP, Business Trips, is about the challenges of re-locating as a foreigner, rebellion, isolation…all based on my own honest viewpoint. Language is a pivotal weapon for me, and combining the nuance as a Japanese through the English lyrics is what’s fascinating.
A thousand year-old souk, colorful cones of spices, pattern on plates, tan pots…
Morocco has been on the top of my bucket list for a long time. Last month, I finally made it there and the experience exceeded my expectation.
The Moroccan interior was stunning, and the traditional craftsmanship was refined and detailed. So many colors-food, patterns on the walls, and lights. Bath houses and Argan oils, scents of Frankincense…
Although the bargaining at the markets were a bit tough, I felt as if that has been the way of survival in the harsh desert conditions and ethnic diversities of this amusing country.
The main reason for visiting Morocco this time was year was to experience the festival of the traditional music of Northern Africa and Morocco; Gnaoua. Formed of voice and three instruments―percussion made of Goat’s skin Tbel, three-string guitar Guembri, and metal castanets Qarqaba―Gnaoua music has been an important part of rituals as one of the oldest trance music.
Arriving at the seaside town of Essaouira where this annual festival was held, the streets were filled with local backpackers and a few Westerners with dread-locks. What made the atmosphere so different from all the other festivals I’ve been to was that because of the Islamic culture, were no alcohol, and couples were rarely seen except families. People were there simply to immerse themselves in music.
I heard a song in the Marrakech riad that caught my attention, and found out the singer was performing at this festival the next day. Luckily we had a chance to see her, a Moroccan singer-songwriter who became successful in France, Hindi Zahra. The venue was the rooftop of a small colosseum, adorned with colorful carpets and ottomans. I thought it would be a soft acoustic set, but the band’s groove progressed from Reggae to Gnaoua beats, joined by the Sahara dancers and the singer herself dancing passionately in the middle of the stage. I felt her loyalty and passion for her roots as a Moroccan throughout the set.
More traditional performances were seen on the main stage at the entrance of the town. dozens of men were synchronizing with their qarqaba beats, syncopated or in a fast 3/4, heads spinning with their decorative hats, voice of call and response with the audience. I could see the connections with the 70’s rock musicians like Jimi Hendricks and Zeppelin.
Jam sessions were held in instruments shop, and even when a little Japanese came in they let me play the Guembri, and the session seemed to go on for hours.
Everything about this has remained the same for thousands of years, when there were no copyrights nor billboard charts, a natural part of their lives like conversation and eating.
what I discovered through this trip was that music that I see today is far from the core, only small labels that’s been attached with fickle concepts.
Let’s be honest, I write songs for my own fame, I rack my brain to come up with ideas on how to increase numbers of plays and social media activites…music as a business is ultimately the same as selling something like air, and we are all manipulated by this fabricated concept that music’s value is in a petty thing such as money.
What I saw after taking those small labels covering the core of music off, was the blessing of music; how it allows us to share time.
In the midst of the Moroccan breeze, I was able to re-discover this simple philosophy of music.