Archive for February 2019

FC Ryukyu in J2

February 25, 2019

FC Ryukyu made history yesterday with their opening match of the new season when they became the first team from Okinawa to play in J2 the second highest tier of J.League football. What’s more they won the game 3-1 in the rain against a strong Avispa Fukuoka team. It was an exciting match with Ryukyu sticking to their all-out attacking philosophy despite having lost their manager and many of the players from the J3 championship squad of last season.

Ryukyu are now led by new manager Yasuhiro Higuchi. Two of their goals yesterday came from debut striker Koji Suzuki while the other was scored by midfielder Yu Tomidokoro. It may be a long hard season for Ryukyu but they have made a great start with this unexpected win.

http://www.fcryukyu.com

 

HARAHELLS: Delicious Club

February 13, 2019

HARAHELLS (yes, all in capitals) are two young women from Okinawa. Delicious Club is their second mini-album release. At nine songs and 38 minutes it’s longer than some classic albums such as Shoukichi Kina’s Bloodline or even Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline but they insist it’s a mini-album. The duo comprises Ramen Maru (drums, vocals) and Nomisugi Mukumi (guitar, vocals).

In their notes for the album they say that their songs are about the food they like, the vegetables they hate, and daily episodes in their lives. This sums up very well what they are all about. They also maintain: “truth is, we are good at eating more than making music. Lately, we drink and eat everything happily, so we got chubby.” Well, I met the pair last week and later watched their live show at Sakurazaka Asylum. I don’t know how much they can eat but their music is a breath of fresh air and they are not chubby.

In fact, HARAHELLS have been around in different line-ups for a while now and were once a trio. The only original member is Ramen Maru and she composes all the songs. Their sound is very stripped back, at times almost to punk basics, with drums and guitar the only accompaniment to most of their songs. It is tempting to employ the overused word ‘quirky’ about what they do but it goes further than that and they can be hilariously funny while making some serious points.

Much of the impact relies on their deadpan lyrical cleverness and wordplay and as it’s all in Japanese it may have limited appeal overseas. Nevertheless, their show can be appreciated on more than one level and they deserve (and will probably get) a much wider audience. They have already played at a music festival in South Korea and the tiny venue where I saw them was packed with admiring fans.

The title track ‘Delicious Club’ is an ode to ramen and is almost irritatingly catchy. The video for this song is well worth checking out on their website. As well as several other songs in praise of food there are some sharp tongue-in -cheek observations of everyday life. In particular ‘Onna-bancho Saki-senpai’ in which they sing of their fear of an older bullying schoolgirl.

London-based Japanese duo Frank Chickens achieved some popularity in the 1980s and in some ways HARAHELLS are reminiscent of them. But HARAHELLS are a more innocent and straightforward duo who are adding some Okinawan flavours and new tastes to the musical dishes they serve.

Delicious Club is out now on the Music from Okinawa label. A release party will be held at Output, Naha on Saturday 2nd March at 18:30. Advance tickets 1,500 yen, or 2,000 yen at the door.

https://harahells2013.wixsite.com/sukippara

Sakurazaka Asylum in Naha

February 10, 2019

The Sakurazaka Asylum 2019 festival began yesterday in and around Naha’s Sakurazaka Theatre. The festival is held alongside the Trans Asia Music Meeting and both events continue today. These pictures show just some of the many musicians who impressed us on the first day of the festival yesterday.

The band Harukakanata from Chiba, Japan

Ishigaki singer-songwriter tidanomiyuki

South Korean duo Laybricks

Drummer Hyejin Yu from Laybricks

With Kwangmin Seo and Hyejin Yu of Laybricks after their show

The band lightcraft from Jakarta, Indonesia

lightcraft

Okinawa’s Harahells

Drummer and vocalist Ramen Maru of Harahells

 

Sakurazaka Asylum 2019

February 1, 2019

The annual Sakurazaka Asylum, a festival of music and art, takes place next week on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th February. As previously, many live shows and events are held not just at the main venue of Sakurazaka Theatre in Naha but also in the surrounding live houses, cafes and bars. The aim of the festival is “to create a place where various cultures interact and new inspiration is born”.

The large number of artists taking part come from Japan and other parts of Asia as well as from Okinawa. The focus is on Asian indie bands and singers rather than on roots music. Some of the musicians from Okinawa are already very familiar faces here and there are surely not many in Okinawa who haven’t already seen the likes of Kachimba4 and Maltese Rock. For those interested in more traditional Okinawan music there will be a performance by Miyako Island singer Hirara.

Singer-songwriter tidanomiyuki is one of the most interesting of the Okinawan contingent and she will play on the Saturday afternoon. Among those invited from overseas is the exciting Korean guitar and drums duo Laybricks and they will perform at different venues on both days of the festival.

Laybricks

Also appearing on both days are Indonesian dream-pop and indie rock band lightcraft who will be here for the first time. Another guitar and drums pair worth looking out for are Harahells. These young women from Okinawa sing quirky songs about food and claim to be better at eating than music.

Full details of all the artists and a schedule of when and where they are playing can be found on the Sakurazaka Asylum website. The festival coincides as usual with the Trans Asia Music Meeting which is held at the same main venue from the 8th to the 10th. For this networking event there will be presentations by music professionals from Japan, South Korea, China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and India.

www.asylum-okinawa.info