Top 5 Artists from Tokyo
By Adil Siddiqee
A brief overview of iconic artists from Tokyo.
Early 90’s Western audiences may not have been as aware, but the rest of the world was enamored by Pizzicato Five. The J-pop group found international success during their 16-year stint, releasing an album a year along with remixes and EPs. More than a cut-and-paste pop outfit, the band merged the mainstream pop style of the time with jazz and soul influences, drawing influence from 60’s English rock groups. Perhaps most importantly, the group is credited with spearheading the Shibuya-kei scene: an emersion of artists engaged in fusion, kitsch, and indie-pop revolution.
Fishmans was a group that could have only flourished thanks to Japan’s endlessly thriving underground scene. Their distinctive blend of dub, dream pop, and psychedelia found its place in Tokyo’s Shibuya-kei scene, and bled into the states following distribution by American labels. Many consider the 1996 record Long Season to be the group’s crowning achievement: a 35-minute song that shifts constantly in composition, repeatedly drawing in the listener again and again.
BORIS is a lot of things, one of them is terrifying. The experimental group has taken influence from all corners of the musical globe, but consistently pushes an envelope of noisy, doomy, sludge metal. Since 2000’s flood, the group has captured the attention of niche listeners worldwide, garnering critical accolades and respect from both sides of the hemisphere. Pretentious and brooding, the band does its brand of stoner/sludge metal well, with releases like Pink and Feedbacker landing on international AOTY lists and capturing a massive fanbase.
Yellow Magic Orchestra
If Yellow Magic Orchestra was from Europe, they would be held today in the same regards as Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder. It’s an understatement to call them ‘ahead of their time’ — Solid State Survivor may as well have predicted the overbearing dominance of electropop in the 80’s. Difficult as it was to produce electronic music through analog platforms, the group nevertheless created intricate, innovative melodies that would continue to sonically stun through the early 90s. Though each member displayed incredible precision at their craft, Ryuichi Sakamoto is the name that carries the most weight: he’s won an Academy Award, a BAFTA, Grammy, and two Golden Globes for his work in film-score.
Was there ever a question? The instrumental jazz-rap wizard, the man who brought us the “Luv(sic)”s, the patron saint of lo-fi hip hop — was from Tokyo, Japan. Seba Jun flipped his name around in the late 90s and began producing mellow, atmospheric, jazz-tinged hip-hop beats from his bedroom, releasing some of the greatest beat tapes to exist in the form of Metaphorical Music and Modal Soul. Prior to his tragic death in 2010, Nujabes found international success via streaming services, especially YouTube, collaborating with artists like CYNE, CL Smooth, and Shing02, influencing a generation of conscious/instrumental hip-hop artists.