Style with Substance

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Japanese DJ Ami Suzuki riles up the crowd at Tokyo Style, held last month in Los Angeles. Photo by: Rodo Riot

By BRETT FUJIOKA
Rafu Intern
One is a former idol, the other is the proclaimed queen of Japanese hip hop, and the third is a Vietnamese Canadian DJ. What they all bear in common is the spotlight they shared at the at the Tokyo Style club event in Los Angeles. This is Tokyo Style’s second annual performance since 2009. Through the collaborative labor of the student unions, their efforts brought the stars that you see today.

DJ Ami Suzuki, DJ Mayumi, and DJ Syncity each took time to speak to the Rafu on the eve of their performances on Sept. 4. They may hail from different corners of the globe, but they each share both personal and business connections with their host city and their presence speaks on behalf of electronic music as it currently stands.

“DJ Barbie was already involved in Tokyo Style 2010 and she pretty much just plugged me in,” DJ Syncity said.

“I know [Tomoyuki] Tanakasan [known onstage as]Fantastic Plastic Machine,” DJ Ami Suzuki said. “Mr. Tanaka told me that he’s been to Tokyo Style before and recommended it.”

DJ Mayumi further cited associates as her connection with the party. Like DJ Ami Suzuki, she flew in from Japan’s capital to spin her songs.

The question still remains: why electronic music? Why Japan? And why here in Los Angeles for that matter? Electronic music has become something of a global phenomenon extending to all parts of the world. In fact, Tokyo Style itself may personify this recurring musical trend both domestically and abroad. DJ Ami Suzuki’s comments attest to this.

“In Japan, pop was more popular but lately everything is getting more mixed into electronica,” Suzuki said. “I think everyone is more prone to listening to that now.”

A decade ago, DJ Ami Suzuki was known simply as Ami Suzuki. She was once considered one of the dueling queens of J-pop, beside Ayumi Hamasaki, before she shifted her focus away from the genre and turned her attention to her present style.

DJ Mayumi prepares for her set at the mixing board. Photo by Rodo Riot

At the same time, this shouldn’t ignore hip hop’s role in this rising trend. Incidentally, DJ Mayumi and DJ Syncity’s presence marks an unspoken marriage between the two genres. DJ Mayumi plays to a crowd ever ready to stir alongside the produced grooves of remixed electronic club songs, yet she cites Zeebra, the legendary pioneer of Japanese hip hop, as one of her respected influences.

Like hip hop, electronica is a global phenomenon unconfined to just America and Japan alone.

DJ Syncity, a Vietnamese Canadian originating from Montreal, further compliments this notion. She started as a break-dancer, homeless, and literally living on the streets until she got her big break.

“I used to go to [the MTV studio in New York]every morning at 7 o’clock in the morning to do the taping of MTV Jams with Tyrese,” she said. “That’s how I got discovered.

“Basically you have to understand, when you’re really hardcore into hip hop culture, you’re around very talented people like DJs, graffiti writers, MCs. I’ve done it all. Either I was hanging out with them a lot or learning from them, or basically I was the person doing it,” she said on the topic of her transition into DJ performing.

In short, hip hop was never shy around the international, the downtrodden, or even the popular. Electronica is no exception. Ask any clubber and they’ll agree that the synthesis between the two is all the rage today.

Like their fans, each artist shares a burning passion for their art and song.

“The music is my medicine,” said Syncity. “I just like to be the spin doctor and make people feel happy…I love that responsibility.”

“Hip hop is like air. It’s something that’s normal to everyday life,” said Mayumi. “In fashion, you need music to do the runway show.And you need fashion to play the music.”

Both music and fashion were equally the main activities of the night. It’s for this reason that prior to the spin cycle, a miniature runway show took center stage. While the musicians were arriving, models strutted their stuff before gawkers and photographers alike. Couture wasn’t restricted to the performers and exhibitors alone. Most of the clubbers clad themselves in exaggerated attire faithful to the trendiest parts of the Shibuya ward in Tokyo.

As the old cliché goes, all good things come to a close. Tokyo Style may have lasted a mere night, but each artists’ plans don’t stop there. DJ Ami Suzuki voiced a desire to complete a new single and to perform in New York City. She refused to commit to any definite dates for either of her ambitions.

DJ Mayumi plans on celebrating her birthday by spinning before a live audience. As for DJ Syncity, she will judge a contest with Timbaland in Switzerland in the near future and further expressed an interest in releasing a record of her own and directing and producing short films online.

Hip hop don’t stop, and the same may apply to both electronica and Tokyo Style in the long run. While the party has closed its doors, rest assured, if next year’s line up resembles anything of this year’s the nit’s bound to tear the hook off the wall all over again.

To view pictures of the DJs and Tokyo Style event- Click here

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