Tokyo is the definition of sensory overload. The smell of neon lights burning fist sized insects. The touch of a drunk salary man sleeping on you, while you suffer the long journey home on the last train. The taste of the convenience store, because that’s pretty much the only place in Japan that will take your debit card. If you are in need of the sights and sounds BakuBakuDokin (バクバクドキン) is an electronic hip hop duo that provides all that and more; maybe more than you would want.
Yui and Naoko, like most best friends, became close because Yui never brought her own book to Psych class. Their relationship soon expanded past the classroom and they ended up spending every waking second with one another listening to CDs in Yui’s brother’s room, having sleepovers at love hotels, or just people watching from said love hotels. It wasn’t long before Naoko and Yui combined their musical talents and formed BakuBakuDokin. Their first show was at an old folk’s home in Setagaya. Since then, BakuBakuDokin has become a darling of Tokyo’s underground music scene.
A BakuBakuDokin concert is close to a religious experience, if your religion was some sort of cult that worshipped aliens that sort of resemble a mix between puppies and frightening computer generated cyborgs. A song about how fun haircuts are is played in the same set as a song about alien invasions. The beats are consistently funky. High energy dance synths meet chilled rap rhythms. The videos playing on screen call you back to your favorite early 90’s cartoon, but only after they have come back from hell as shells of their former selves. They aren’t afraid to jump into the crowd, point at you, and make you dance by the pure force of their own grotesque cuteness. The only thing you know you are going to get out of a BakuBakuDokin concert is that you never know what you are going to get out of a BakuBakuDokin concert. That chaos however, is extremely polished, like a diamond in a minefield.
Some of BakuBakuDokin’s most notable works are actually collaborations with some of Japan’s biggest names. They have been sources of inspiration for big names in Japanese music production like hip-hop greats “RIP-SLYME” and “Towa-Tei.” As part of their early career they even appeared internationally in the very Japanese video game “Touch My Katamari” as guest vocalists. “I’ve known I wanted to work in music ever since I was a little girl.” It’s no surprise that Yui, who works on the music production side of the group, has had musical aspirations from a young age. Aside from producing for “BakuBakuDokin” she has also recently acted as a producer for the Idol group “Ebisu Private Middle School” (私立恵比寿中学) with the song “Chupacabra” on their new single. “I think we originally attracted fans that were interested in cute and fun songs, but I think lately the crowds we are getting are also becoming very interested in the technical side of our music as well.”
Check out one of their music videos here:
Japan far and wide is known for its outlandish commercials, brightly colored cartoons and sexual eccentricity but few people realize just how much of this is considered subculture against the very conservative mainstream culture of Japan. By the standards of Japanese society these qualities are not often seen or acknowledged in the day in the life of an average salaryman, housewife or student. In fact these subcultural qualities are seen as quite deviant by the mainstream. That’s what make BakuBakuDokin, and other bands like it, hard to swallow for many people in the East Asian country.
However that’s where BakuBakuDokin draws much of their creative strength and inspiration. When the traditional cultures and customs are so strongly held by a people, the counter-culture will have no choice but to become just as strong. Its two sides of the same coin that can’t be avoided, and that is where a huge percentage of great art is born from. Japan is interesting because people of other countries see the Japanese people through the counter culture lenses immediately and have to be taught about the mainstream. There are very few other countries, if any that have to deal with an image like that.
American underground music has become very much the mainstream. If you want to hear the top 20 hits, these days instead of going to the pop station, you find yourself turning into, the now ironically named, alternative stations. When an alternative choice becomes a mainstream choice what does that say for the culture that is consuming said media? Will we eventually be listening to the Taylor Swifts of the world instead of bands like “Passion Pit” to piss off our parents and rebel?
I have found in my experience that Japan also has had similar transformations over the years. Idol music used to be considered music exclusively for a certain subculture who enjoyed obsessing over girls they would never ever in a million years get a chance to date. However those same groups that were once marketed towards a core audience of freaks and weirdoes can only be found performing on stage in your grandmother’s living room. So you have to wonder if bands like BakuBakuDokin will ever be accepted by your grandmother. Surely it’s a strange thought to have now, but in a number of decades you will be the grandparent.
BakuBakuDokin is a band that ranks performance as highly in importance as the music, and it shows. You can tell from their music videos that they aren’t only musicians but artists with a strong sense of what makes Tokyo and the humans that inhabit it unique. As for now they are continuing to be the freaky band you haven’t heard of yet, and I recommend you check them out in their freaky prime before they start getting airtime on the soft rock stations and lose their streetcred, as we all eventually will. If you have a penchant for girls in pajamas and dog masks rapping about how delicious steak is, there isn’t a band better suited for you than BakuBakuDokin; your guides through the beautiful glittering hell that is Tokyo.
More on these babes can be found at their spooky website: http://bakubakudokin.com/
Our guest blawger, Wolfgang is a hella gay senior at UW, currently lost in space and time (a side effect of living in Tokyo). He spends most of his time listening to noises, turning his jeans in cut-offs and looking at his blog and thinking that he should really write something at some point. The sad sad, excuse for a blog can be found at discowolf.svbtle.com. It’s about Japan and feelings.