See some fresh bands from Japan

Next Music From Tokyo programmer and organizer Steve Tanaka told us what to expect from this year’s showcase of cool new sounds from the East.


For the fifth consecutive year, the Next Music From Tokyo showcase is bringing some of Japan’s finest young bands to Divan Orange. For the first time since the cross-Canada event’s inception in 2010, there will be five bands playing all three dates (in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal) rather than the usual four, giving organizer Steven Tanaka a total of 21 musicians and their staff to babysit for 10 days. Luckily this labour of love has attracted a number of volunteers to help make it happen.

Kinoko Teikoku
Kinoko Teikoku

Also contributing to the event are the NMFT fans who make programming suggestions online. According to Tanaka, it’s the fans who were responsible for the booking of one of this year’s featured bands, Uchu Conbini.

“They’re a very young band and haven’t developed the stage presence that I look for in bands that have come over to Canada in the past,” Tanaka explains, “but all the fans love the music, and they said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not all about energy and going nuts on stage — good music alone is worth it to bring this band.'”

Showmanship, good songs and an indie status are what Tanaka looks for when selecting his imports, whether they’re set to break Japan’s pop charts or destined to remain underground.


“Kinoko Teikoku is a band that could definitely be on a major label if they wanted to,” Tanaka says. “They’re a nice polished band that could appeal to a large audience, but they also have a darker, rougher side to them.

“Happy!Mari is a band that I personally wanted to bring, and I don’t care if everyone hates them as long as I got a chance to bring them to Canada and they have a good time,” he says. “There’s definitely a high risk of a good part of the audience not liking them, mainly because the singer uses a lot of vocal gymnastics and he’s got a high-pitched voice. It’s gonna be hit or miss for a lot of people, but they’re good — they’re a quirky, fun band.”

One thing Tanaka guarantees is that all five bands make music with enough kick to guarantee that the audience will never be bored.

“None of the music is totally straightforward, everything has a little bit of a new dynamic to it,” he says. “They all do something a little unusual to make it fresh, and maybe even unique.” ■

Next Music From Tokyo vol. 6 — with Kinoko Teikoku, Uchu Conbini, Jizue, Happy!Mari and Nayuta — happens at Divan Orange (4234 St-Laurent) on Monday, May 19, 9 p.m., $10/$15