Tokyo, like all cities has many neighbourhoods and each has it’s own style and character. Of all the neighbourhoods in this vast and crazy city Shibuya is . . . . well Shibuya. It is young, hip, loud, crowded, bright, fun and high energy. There is nowhere else like it and you either love it or hate it. Shibuya is Asia’s capital of cool ! ! ! In the 1990 decade, a style of music particular to this neighbourhood began to develop which took a different and unique direction from the music in the rest of Tokyo and Japan. It used European influences and styles from the 1960 decade rather than the US rock influences. The style became known as Shibuya Kei which just means Shibuya Style. We would like to share some of the wide variety of music that has come from this unique neighbourhood.
To be honest Shibuya sounds like my worst nightmare these days. Busy , noisy full of life and neon lights. I’m more of a “sitting alone in a field” kind of a guy now. When I was younger, though, I frequented the back alleys of Soho and Oxford Circus and I think Shibuya is a bit like that area. Swinging, sophisticated, naughty. A place for the young, the young at heart and , apparently, faithful dogs ! ( eh ? Look, just google “Hackiko” O.K.) . Here then, are some sounds from “Swinging Tokyo”. Hope you like them.
Sakura - Flipper’s Guitar - Young, Alive, In Love
Flippers Guitar were the band that really started it all ! ! ! This track is from 1990 and you can really hear the European and Jazz influences and it really has a swinging sixties feel to it ! ! ! Flippers Guitar were only active from 1989 to 1991 but they had a really big influence on everything that came after them and they really marked Shibuya Kei as being something dofferent from what was happening in the rest of Tokyo. I love this track as it is really cheerful and bright and has great groove ! ! !
Ha ! Love the video. They went all the way to Paris to get the feel of the thing, hope they weren’t too disappointed.
Very “French” feel to this one, bright and cheery.
Pairubu - Cuppie Rumne- Postman
Love this one. It’s so silly. Taking a bit lump of “Ye ye” and chucking some groovy synths in too. Post-a-man !
How can it not make you smile ?
This is typical what Cuppie Rumne call their Bambi Pop style. They were an electronica group that somehow could not take themselves seriously ! ! ! Their fun style developed in the famous Shibuya club the Blue Room which is where the school girl chic style really developed. Shibuya is maybe the only place in the world where school girls go home and change out of their school uniforms and into a fake school uniform to wear for going out! ! ! I think this track is really catchy and a definite earworm! ! !
Sakura - Paris Match – Desert Moon
This is is a big contrast to Cuppie Rumne ! ! ! I love the smooth sophisticated euro jazz pop style of this track. They formed in 2000 and since then they have released 14 albums and one of the most enduring Shibuya Kei bands. They took the name from a song by the UK group Style Council and were influenced very much by this group. They include bossa nova, house and jazz tracks on their albums which are always interesting. I just love the singer (Mari Mizuno) I think she has a wonderful and sophisticated delivery.
Sakura, dearest, Paris Match is ( was ?) a magazine from France well before Weller snaffled the name. I used to “read” it in the school library when I was a lad ( O.K. I admit it, I was looking for boobs, they occasionally had “topless” models !). A very sophisticated sound. Not usually the thing that I would go for but it’s actually very pleasant. Doesn’t she have little legs ?
Pairubu - Kahimi Karie- Lolitapop Dollhouse
A little bit “punky” this one. It has a great , hypnotic groove to it, breathy vocals and some subtle and lovely fuzzy guitar sounds.
Bwaaang ( but in a quiet, sophisticated sort of a way).
Kahimi Karie was know as the Princess of Shibuya Kei in the 1990 decade. This track is from her first album Larme de Crocodile which was released in 1997 but she had released six EPs before this. She moved to Paris to live for many years where she did a variety of work including translating subtitles for films, making music for TV commercials, web site design and hosting a weekly radio show. She is now back in Tokyo and recently did some of the music for the Nintendo game Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure. I really enjoy this track for the vocals which I think are really atmospheric and the really great beat.
Sakura - Sakanaction – Me and the Flower
It may be a little controversial to say Sakanaction are a Shibuya band as they are originally from Sapporo but they moved to Shibuya in 2007 to be where the action is and it is in Shibuya that they made their first album and achieved success. They have a really great pop rock sound and you can hear the European and jazz influences of the classic Shibuya Kei in the bass lines of Ami Kusakari who is the only member of the band to actually be from Tokyo. I really like this track and the mix of influences and the changes it goes through as the track progresses.
Very inventive and fun video with this one. The visual side can’t be dismissed with these bands. Image is everything, I think. As fragile as a butterfly made from real butter. Fun. Makes me want to go to Shibuya, form a band “The Elderly Duck Pluckers” and be cool.
Pairubu - Macdonald duck eclair- Poodle
I don’t care what it sounds like. It’s called “Poodle” and that’s good enough for me ( actually I can’t abide real poodles !). A wordless “pa pa pippy pippy ” number that manages to be both “French” and yet typical electronic Japanese. Somewhat like the music a Gallic Dalek might make, perhaps.
This is a group I really admire actually. They formed in 1998 and are still active and released a great album last year. They record at home using their computers and protools software and release their music through independant record lables. But they are really successful artistically and also have some really good sales and even worked with Kylie Minogue in 2005. I think you can hear many typical Shibuya Kei influences including I think a French pop sound with the vocals. A really nice track to finish with I think.
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I hope you have enjoyed some of the music that has come from the Tokyo neighbourhood of Shibuya. It is an amazing place but maybe you will hate it if you visited but maybe, like me you will love it ! ! ! The music scene is really varied there and of course we have selected our favourites, but we hope you enjoyed the post and think we have given a good selection.
So there you are ! A strange and exotic mix of Europe and Asia that is, I think, quite unique. Rather like Shibuya, I suspect. Not a place for me, as I have said. I imagine it to be full of “cool” dudes and wild eyed , shop crazed women frantically buying shoes ( Hi Sakura !).
Perhaps, though, if I sat sipping a Cappucino at a bar, dressed in a white linen suit, brogues and a panama hat, perhaps I might recapture a bit of my mispent youth there…..who knows ?
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We are planning on making a He Said – She Said post every two weeks over the summer.
Next time we are going to write about Chinese and Taiwanese popular music from the 1940 - 1960 decades. We hope you can join us again then ! ! !