HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Author: Maria Golomidova

Okino Shuya © Maria Golomidova (HESO Magazine)

Shuya Okino Interview

Shuya Okino Interview

Shuya Okino Live on the Mic…

Shuya Okino has been DJing on the international scene for more than two decades, bringing the best Crossover Jazz to the Americas, Europe and Asia in a soulful effort to bridge musical as well as cultural divides. Garnering early acclaim with Kyoto Jazz Massive’s first single, “Eclipse/Silent Messenger” and the release of the subsequent album Spirit of the Sun in 2002, it wasn’t until recently that Okino put out his own album, United Legends. Like everything Okino does, it’s original and with style. In the tradition of the genre he has brought to the forefront of international music scenes across the globe, the album was put together by invitation to ten different producers and ten different vocalists as a compilation of sorts, via email. Like Kyoto Jazz Massive itself, which came into the world as a DJ vehicle, the scene has grown to encapsulate an eclectic ensemble of the best live jazz musicians in conjunction with mad beat architecture: two of the things Shuya Okino holds dear.

The lovely and talented Maria Golomidova had a chance to sit down with Shuya recently and talk about his roots, the possibility of a new KJM album and what else he’s got on his plate.

Shuya Okino Interview

HESO Magazine: This is your 20th year as a DJ, and you’ve played on various stages throughout many different countries. What’s your greatest memory? DJing or playing live?

Shuya Okino: About 5 years ago in Paris I DJed a show together with Rainer Truby. We played every kind of music we could come up with: HIPHOP/JAZZ/HOUSE/TECHNO/BRAZIL/LATIN/AFRICA/DISCO/BOOGIE/DRUM’N’BASS/BREAK BEATS/SOUL/FUNK/ARABIAN…and so on. But in France I’d heard that Club Jazz is a difficult thing. I guess what left an impression on me was when I visited in 2000 thinking that nobody would come. What I can’t forget to this day is the rush of the packed venue and the open-minded audience.

HM: This is the first time Kyoto Jazz Massive has played live in two years. When’s the next concert? Album?

Cooking, using a stove, is somehow like DJing, isn’t it? Click To Tweet

OS: In Japan, probably in two more years (laughs). Abroad, we’ve booked in Mexico & The Netherlands and then England. As for the next album, because it depends on my brother as well, I can’t really say, but I’d like to have one come out by 2012. Isn’t it amusing we only put one out every 10 years?

HM: You write books, DJ, compose music, manage a club (The Room), organize festivals (TOKYO CROSSOVER JAZZ FESTIVAL). Is there anything else (other than music) you’d like to try?

Shuya Okino Interview


OS: I’d like to try my hand at movies. Soundtracks or screenplays. Eventually even directing…? I’ve made an imaginary soundtrack called BLACK FINGER and a director from Detroit said he wants to make it into a movie! I can’t really say anything more…

HM: Can you tell us who you would like to collaborate with next? And who’s the most interesting musician on the Crossover scene?

OS: I would love to do something with Herbie Hancock, an artist whom I absolutely respect. Of the same generation, someone like Carl Craig or Tony Lionni maybe? As for the Crossover scene I’d have to say Rootsoul. Newcomers in Japan, but they make the best, funkiest, most unique music around.

HM: What kind of food do you like? Do you cook?

OS: Zucchinis, avocados, sundried tomatoes. I cook for myself three meals a day. Cooking, using a stove, is somehow like DJing, isn’t it?

When it comes to Crossover Jazz, Shuya Okino is the man. He can be found celebrating his 20th year DJing at the Tokyo Crossover Jazz Festival 2009 at Ageha 9/11/09. Check it out:

Tokyo Crossover Jazz Festival
Shuya’s Artist Page
The Room where Shuya often plays

Tokyo Crossover Jazz Festival

Tokyo Crossover Jazz Festival

Launched in 2003, Japan’s premier crossover jazz music festival is setting a new world standard for large-scale parties of its kind. This year’s festival rounded up 35 artists from around the world and included a special jazz session with the great Gilles Peterson, who was appearing for the first time; Shuya Okino’s United Legends session featuring Josh Milan (Blaze) and Navasha Daya (Fertile Ground); as well as DJ support from stars like Dego of 4Hero and 2000 Black. Those who were able to make the show at Ageha were treated to a full four sets of excellent music. Between the dynamism of live music and the innovative DJing, the genre of jazz took on whole new meanings and the crowd danced the evening to perfection.

Jazz has been big in Japan for a century. Fumio Nanri, Ryoichi Hattori, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Yosuke Yamshita, Tadao Watanabe, to name a few, were all stellar musicians in their own right who sought to overcome criticisms of being derivative. Anyone can play a horn, pluck a bass, strum a guitar or pound a snaredrum, and a vast majority of Japanese jazz musicians were able to do so, finding themselves to be almost freakishly good at technical playing, but were missing the intangible touch of flair that was new and exciting, the j’ai ne sais quoi still good enough to remind fans of the masters from before. Music thirsts for artistry beyond mere musical ability. Jazz needs soul.

Read Maria Golomidova’s interview with Okino Shuya and listen to the excellent new release from Kyoto Jazz Massive as Kyoto Jazz Sextet.

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