Listen to the sounds of an oddball performer in front of Shinjuku station, Tokyo.
Of anywhere in Japan, Shinjuku has to be Japan, no, the whole universe, in miniature. The raunchy east side, the somewhat less earthy, but by no means posh west side - both are where all forms of humanity (and maybe more?) brush shoulders, all in a hurry except for the homeless men and women, the street sellers and touts, and ... the oddballs.
What alerted me first was a sound that wormed its way into my consciousness through the mish-mash of the cars, passers-by, and bus station announcements. It was somehow distinctive, not for its catchiness or rhythm, but for those qualities' exact opposites: pleasant enough but otherwise unremarkable light supermarket-BGM-style jazz with tinny vacillatory percussion effects coming in and out, overlaid with occasional hoarse mumbling.
Looking around, I finally found it. Parked across from the west side of Shinjuku Station, near Yodobashi Camera, was an little old van with speakers rigged Robinson Crusoe-style to the roof with pieces of rope and newspaper padding.
In the driver's seat was a bearded guy, probably in about his late 30s or early 40s, with a white plastic mike hanging in front of his mouth from the rearview mirror, and a equally toy-looking synthesizer keyboard propped on the dashboard.
He was fingering the keyboard in a desultory way, producing rudimentary drum effects that, with his occasional voice-overs, mixed in with the BGM that played constantly and quietly from the speakers.
I stood there for five minutes and, as far as I could tell, no one seemed to even vaguely register his, the van's, the music's existence. Is he a frustrated would-be jazz drummer? Perhaps a very contented one! Click at the link at the top and decide.
I then went off to have dinner nearby, and 30 minutes later the van was gone.
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Japan Tokyo Shinjuku jazz music
Friday, December 08, 2006