Saturday 14 December 2013

Monday 2 December 2013

Past glories of UK-Japanese trade: Yaohan

On the ley line of the Edgware Road, lies Colindale. Not far from Brent Cross, the crossroads that in the early 1970s gave birth to the first purpose-built shopping centre in Britain. In the early 1990s, as the economic bubble sagged in native Japan, one of its pioneering businesses, Yaohan, opened a shopping centre of its own, in Colindale. More reasonably priced than other Japanese outlets in London's West End, it was a small oasis standing proud of the huddle of car showrooms. There were several restaurants, the ubiquitous sushi, but also okonomiyaki and other more down-home fare. There was a micro version of a 100 yen shop, seasonal entertainments, a games room and most usefully, a huge Japanese supermarket.

Sadly, the Yaohan empire crumbled under the strain of too much global expansion and accumulated debt. One of Japan's greatest post-war miracles was over. The faceless block was taken over fairly swiftly by Oriental City, possibly a more democratic view of pan-Asian cuisine, commerce and culture, but the quality was never the same. It was closely followed by China City, which also faltered. Now it awaits the predictable fate of being turned into apartments. 

More here

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Shunga exhibition

At the British Museum from October 3

Friday 13 September 2013

Fuji Keiko

Most of Fuji Keiko's songs were laments, songs of loneliness, loss, regret and death, the melancholy underscored by her bluesy, yet athletic, delivery. She endures, peering out from record sleeves, her expression a beguiling mix of coldness, fragility, sadness and defiance.

The daughter of two itinerant musicians, which possibly explains Fuji's gritty singing style; she once covered "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me", and could be compared with Dusty Springfield. Japanese popular music has always had its blues, or burusu, borne out of the popularity of songs like "St. James Infirmary" in the pre-war years. No one in pop had taken the cue to sing from the guts, until Fuji. 

An unsuspecting listener, once acclimatised to the slick, sentimental Victor Orchestra backing, is assailed by Fuji's voice, emerging vengeful, ripping through the velvet with a shocking force - considering her steely performing style and svelte build. A giant ruling the charts in the seventies, she retired from the music business early. Attempted comebacks were given scant support from record companies struggling to keep up with new fashions. Whatever may be said about her, Fuji Keiko's greatness will live on, within a slew of epic grooves, carved into the heart of Japanese pop history.

Japan Blues 2013.

Monday 29 July 2013

Last Japan Blues of the season

Japan Blues

Hibiki Ichikawa (Tsugaru shamisen)
Akari Mochizuki (voice)
Howard Williams
 50s rock'n'roll to 80s disco/boogie.
 All Made In Japan.

Friday August 9


Sunday 7 July 2013

Masaaki Hirao Album launch party

Japan Blues

Album launch:
Masaaki Hirao - Nippon Rock'n'Roll

Live enka and minyou
Ichikawa Hibiki - Tsugaru shamisen 

Akari Mochizuki - voice
Howard Williams
 50s rock'n'roll to 80s disco/boogie - all Made In Japan

Saturday July 13
Cafe OTO


Wednesday 26 June 2013

Masaaki Hirao - Nippon Rock'n'Roll

CD available here, 10" LP due in two weeks.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Zewditou Yohannes, live at Cafe OTO

A Summer night of Ethiopian music
Zewditou Yohannes


Howard Williams
(Honest Jon's / Japan Blues)
playing Ethiopian records.

Cafe OTO, Friday June 28

Tickets: £7.00 adv, £8.00 on the door.

Sunday 9 June 2013

More essential movies at the NFT this month

Suzaki Paradise: Red Signal

Struggling against poverty in the sweltering heat, in post-occupation Japan.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Roots of Japanese rock'n'roll

Man Who Causes a Storm

Yujiro Ishihara bites off more than he can chew
when he decides to make it as the top jazz drummer in Japan. 

Featuring a pre-rokabirii on-stage appearance by Masaaki Hirao.

Just one of the essential celluloid killers at the Nikkatsu season at the NFT

Thursday 30 May 2013

Soon come

Masaaki Hirao, raw 50s Japanese rock'n'roll.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Japan Blues at Cafe OTO, June 6

  Japan Blues
     Okinawan evening

Howard Williams
(Ethbo / Honest Jon's / The Trilogy Tapes)
plays Japanese records in a pentatonic groove,
1930s - 1980s.
Sanshin Sisters Special

Cafe OTO, Thursday June 6
8.00 - 11.30, free.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Cuba 1992

More here, at Colinville

Friday 12 April 2013

Japan Blues at Cafe OTO

Japan Blues

Howard Williams (Ethbo / Honest Jon's / The Trilogy Tapes) plays Japanese records
 in a pentatonic groove, 1930s - 1980s.
Live enka and minyou:
Ichikawa Hibiki - Tsugaru shamisen and Akari Mochizuki - voice.

Cafe OTO, Thursday April 25
8.00 −11.30