Friday, August 30, 2013

Walking Into the Sun



















In 1997, I visited my Japanese brother Ichiro in Tokyo. It was my first visit to the land of the rising sun and i was spellbound by every single light, sign, restaurant, store, shrine, tree, park, animal, person, car, not to forget the air. The concrete streets in Ichiro's residential neighbourhood were well-suited for walking and it wasn't long before we trekked the short distance to the bustling hub of Shimokitazawa, a culture lovers dream. The district was literally exploding w/ a bevy of eateries, shops, jam spaces, and even a recreation complex where you could grab a hot cup of free green tea. After tasting my first okonomiyaki, an egg-based cabbage pancake-like creation w/ fresh squid that was made right before my eyes in a six-seat hole-in-the-wall, we ventured off to a multiple vendor mini-mall and a store called WIND. Brimming w/ vintage vinyl, the owner chain smoked long-filtered cigarettes while we perused the inventory. While most of the music was old, much of it was new to me. American soul and jazz, European soundtracks, and bossa nova from Brazil, there were records from all over the world!@#$%!!! Eventually, we sparked up a little conversation, the shopkeeper's English was limited, but far more effective than my non-existent Japanese. When he discovered that I was visiting from Canada, he reached behind the counter and showed me a piece of paper. "You have?" he said, pointing to a picture of an album by a group called "The Brazda Brothers." "No," I replied. "You find me?" "Um, ok!" I made a mental note and kept digging in the smoke-filled room.

Upon return to Vancouver, I felt what I could describe as culture shock in reverse. I noticed obvious things that I had never observed in quite the same manner. The streets back home were wider and there were far less people moving about. The natural openness of British Columbia, even the suburban area in which I lived at the time was devoid of the colourful lights and in-your-face signage that had entranced me in Tokyo, even overblown Christmas decorations paled in comparison. In due time, life settled back down to a mellow west coast pace, but I was succumbing to yet another life-altering groove: music and DJ culture. Rap, rock & roll, and reggae was my current soundtrack and I had already begun to seek high and low for vinyl records to spin in dark and dingy downtown clubs. weekly visits to the Vancouver flea market had replaced weekly masses at a local Catholic church, a family practice since birth. At 23 years of age, I was now forming my own religion, creating rituals, and performing ceremonies w/ a different community. Love was still the message, and sound as integral to the proceedings as that of a sacred hymn, but the rhythms were much harder, the beat, completely dominant. The priest was replaced by a sound man or a vinyl habadasher like sage OG hippie, Ty Scammell. Air, once filled w/ incense, now smelt of tobacco, marijuana, and the choking, yet curiously inviting mist of a nightclub fog machine. Peace and unity of a different form and much more aligned w/ my emerging—and somewhat subversive—passions. I sought truth in music, and it took me all over Vancouver and the lower mainland (and eventually, more and more of the world) in search of its glory and mystery. It began to reveal itself layer by layer, like the pages of a bible, and could be found in the most everyday of places. One day I came across an average looking book store in town that also carried a selection of used records. It seemed innocent enough, but amidst a stack of easy listening and pop pap of no consequence, I found a minty copy of The Brazda Brothers waiting for me in the dollar bin. With the reverberating words from the owner of WIND still fresh in my mind, I paid for the record and proceeded home to give it a spin...





TO BE CONTINUED...

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