December of last year I got an e-mail from Ryuji Noda, the Founder of Music From Okinawa whom I met in Bangkok Music City in Thailand and LUCFest in Taiwan on October and November, respectively. He invited me to be a delegate, moderate a panel, and be a panelist for the annual Trans Asia Music Meeting and also check out bands at the Sakurazaka Asylum in Okinawa, Japan.
A snap from Sakurazaka Asylum.
I believe these are the locals checking out the shows and the one in the middle is the festival mascot.
The Trans Asia Music Meeting or TAMM is an international music conference started in 2016 with the aim of building music network between Okinawa and Asia. Through the network, [their] aim is to deepen mutual understanding and function as a new music platform in Okinawa Prefecture. The main focus of this year’s conference is expanding the reach of local artists and introduce new opportunities and networks in neighboring countries.
Pyra from Thailand, Darren Teh of An Honest Mistake,
and Music From Okinawa Director Ryuji Noda
during the Trans Asia Music Meeting welcome banquet
I was really honored to represent the Philippines at TAMM. Noda-san specifically asked me to moderate the panel on The Role Of The Showcase Festival In The Independent Music Scene and be one of the panelist and share Tips For Touring Southeast Asia.
Hanging out with my co-panelists at TAMM.
Had a fun discussion on Tips For Touring Southeast Asia with Marianne Chang of Bandwagon Singapore,
Joff Cruz of Swan Zoo Vietnam, and Py Muenprasertdee of Bangkon Music City Thailand.
Moderated a panel on the Role of Showcase Festival in The Independent Music Scene
with Andy Jones of Focus Wales UK, MC Galang of The Rest Is Noise Philippines,
Kong Dalse Yoon-Young of Zandari Festa Korea, and Py Muenprasertdee of Bangkon Music City Thailand
This high-tech real-time translator was a best friend
to most delegates of the 2-day Trans Asia Music Meeting.
TAMM not only had panel discussions but it also gave a platform for selected delegates to have a short pitch about their companies or organizations. One of my favorite pitch was from Tuk Tuk Passawan of CAT Radio Thailand. She shared how Cat Radio started as a radio station and how it expanded to producing CAT Expo, one of the biggest Music Festivals in Thailand.
Tuk Tuk Passawan of CAT Radio Thailand giving a short pitch at TAMM
Delegates were also given one-on-one sessions where one can meet bands from Okinawa and other local businesses who supports Music From Okinawa. I got to meet cool bands and artists like Harahells, TOSH, The Bassons, Yuka Takara, and many more.
The Corona Virus was already looming at the time of TAMM. There were some delegates who cancelled their trip last minute because of their countries respective travel bans in place. It would’ve been awesome if all of them made it to Okinawa as it will be one big reunion for all of us who have been a part of different conferences and showcase festivals the previous months.
Delegates of the Trans Asia Music Meeting 2020 in Naha, Okinawa in Japan.
At the end of the Music Conference, TAMM and Music from Okinawa shared a moving statement about the importance of making meaningful connections and a continuous face-to-face meeting is the only way to move forward in a sustainable manner. That friendship is the true currency of the music business and culture is the true currency of influence - whether socially, politically or economically. All of the delegates signed the statement as a sign of unity. You may read the full released statement here.
SAKURAZAKA ASYLUM - A CELEBRATION OF MUSIC IN OKINAWA
Another awesome part of the invitation to go to Okinawa is to check out bands invited to perform for Sakurazaka Asylum, an annual music and art festival held in Naha, Okinawa. This year, they’ve invited 70 bands to take part and share their music through live performances at different venues in Naha.
On Friday night, I got to hang out with friends I met at previous festivals and checked out The Bassons’ set at COLORS.
Gutter convos with Miguel and Adriana of Deer Mx (Hong Kong),
Darren Teh of An Honest Mistake (Malaysia), MC Galang of The Rest Is Noise (PH),
Py Muenprasertdee of Bangkon Music City (Thailand), and Joff Cruz of Swan Zoo (Vietnam)
Funk-Rock band The Bassons was the first one everyone got to check out in Okinawa.
Sakurazaka Asylum officially started on Saturday February 22 with live music starting as early as 12nn in Kibogaoka Park located just across the Sakurazaka Theater where Trans Asia Music Meeting was being held.
Here’s a clip of Masayo Hayashi performing at the beautiful Kibogaoka Park on Day 1 of Sakurazaka Asylum. What I love about her set was she had a live artists working on a painting. The painting shifts either the color or the elements depending on the tone of song.
Okinawa has a good mix of contemporary music that represents their culture and people. There were traditional music, folk, experimental, rock, funk, alternative, pop. They also invited a few artists from different parts of the world to showcase their music. I would like to share with you more clips of the artists with sets that I really enjoyed in Sakurazaka Asylum.
Harahells, an indie pop duo was one of the recommended bands for delegates to check out. And the charming duo did not disappoint. I was able to have a short chat with them at the one-on-one meet up and asked them if they only sing about food and vegetables. They said they sing about anything that interests them. What I like about them is that while they’re only two in the band, they deliver their songs which such power that you forget that they are just two members of the band.
Dark and mesmerizing music and visuals is what Hong Kong's Deer Mx offered their listeners. Adriana and Miguel reminded me of avant garde Filipino band Turbo Goth. The stories behind the songs that they share to the audience on each and every song is what made their set more engaging.
There’s something for everyone at Sakurazaka Asylum. Watching theater legends Yuka Takara and Alvin Ing’s set at a Music Showcase was very refreshing. Takara shared during one of our chats that she’s been on broadway for a lot of years and now she wanted to give back and perform to the people of Okinawa.
I first saw PYRA perform live in Bangkok Music City last year. Her strong lyrics and stunning visuals will get anyone hooked. My favorite part of her live sets is the big audience group hug. She shared on one of the panel discussions that she was a part of during TAMM that her type of music is not the typical music made in Thailand but then added that why should she limit her music in Thailand when there’s a big world out there that would embrace her music. With that disposition, we can simply say nobody puts PYRA in a corner.
TOSH is one of the artists from Okinawa that I believe would make it in the International indie scene. His songs are radio-friendly, he’s charming and driven, and you could actually hear that he has so much more to offer. You can sort of hear it from the snippet of his performances at Music Showcase but the lack of a longer clip was entirely my fault — I was so engaged listening to his music that I forgot to take a longer clip for this post. He recently released an EP called In My Room. Listen to it and you’ll hear what I mean.
There is beauty and brilliance in spontaneity and chaos and I witnessed it first hand from Cinema Dub Monks. Imagine entering the venue with a somewhat organized yet cluttered platform with instruments one will not see on stage together. Yet Oha Soga and contrabass player Gandhi delivered a performance that I am pretty sure everyone in the bar that afternoon will never forget.
AKAZUCHI was the last live performance I saw in Sakurazaka Asylum. The hip-hop collective reminded me of Bawal Clan. The group showcased their head-bopping rhymes and put the audience in the palm of their hands.
Minyo Crusaders for me is the best live performance I had a privilege of witnessing in Sakurazaka Asylum. The band is one of the Music scene pioneers in Okinawa and perform music with fusion of Japanese folk songs and Latin rhythms. The ensemble create a big wall of sound that anyone in the room can never resist that urge to dance and groove to the sound that the band creates. Minyo Crusader’s performance was a party in itself that I never want to leave.
TAMM Delegates during the closing party at Outpost. Photo from Darren Teh.
Okinawa has given me inspiration to continue supporting aspiring bands and artists in the Philippines. The connections I made with old and new Music champions from different parts of the world has yet again opened a new floodgate of opportunities for the Music community in Manila and the country. My gratitude goes to Noda-san and the team behind Music from Okinawa and Sakurazaka Asylum for the marvelous time we had in Okinawa. Til next year!