Asa-Chang & Junray

June 25, 2016


Leaf Rec.   Asa-Chang & Junray : Jun Ray Song Hang (JAP,2002)*****


Asa-Chang started to make career as a percussionist and a bandmaster of the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra in 1989 with a multiplied openness to all kinds of genres and approaches. In 1998, Asa-Cang started Asa-Chang & Junray as a duo with guitarist / programmer, Hidehiko Urayama, with a first album “Tabla Magma Bongo”. In 2000, a third member joined the band, namely tabla player, U-Zhaan, for performing live together. In 2001 they released the mini-album “Hana” with much success, resulting in a rerelease of this album for Leaf and this full CD, with raving reviews.


Asa-Chang plays the Indonesian "Dandud" bongo in a style influenced by the Indian tabla style. This original idea came also from Indonesia. In Jakarta there exists a contemporary style of drumming called "Dandud" based upon the playing of tabla.

Other member U-Zhaan has spent some years studying tabla and Carnatic South Indian kanjira drum under the tutelage of percussionist V. Selvaganesh. The new technique they present in the group is completely new. It has elements and ideas of Indian vocal percussion duet with tabla. A few times I also recognized some Indonesian communicative rhythmic singing patterns too. Here it becomes a tabla-over-normal-speech style. In our modern commercialized music business times, where the still primitively minded hip-hop style is over-promoted, now this is what I call a thoughtful vocal percussive and musically interesting communication area with vocals and rhythms. 


But this is far from a percussion driven album..


“Hana” is a filmic track with minimal chamber music and duet vocals with broken tabla-percussion on the spoken word rhythms, with just a few small touches of electronic effects. 

“Preach” has beautifully combined trumpet, played with gipsy-fun, mixed with a metallic Indonesian instrument (?), and deformed funny vocals and other sounds, with tabla-like percussion and electronic effects. 

The track “Kobana” I knew from the “Childish Music” compilation. I recognised immediately with it a huge talent and great vision behind the music. It has more deformed funny vocals with percussion, harmonica and electronics very nicely interwoven into a sweet folktronic fairytale-story-into-music song. The vocal ideas continue on “Nigatsu”, a track wich starts with storm sounds and guitar, and which is basically composed by guitar mixed with some keyboards and slightly cut-in recordings of vocals which are beautifully interwoven in the composition with a song idea, adding percussion, trumpet, and a bit of sitar all contributing its own ideas to it. 

“Goo-Gung-Gung"definitely has some ethnic inspiration (Indonesian ?). It is a percussive melody with fine combinations of sounds that combine well with nice overtones (tabla, electronica and …), built up very much in combinations like some Indonesian music is built up, but here still as something different and as a new idea.

“Kutsi#1” after this, played by trumpet & percussion mostly is a more moody melody. Also “Jippun” has something of an ethnic music idea. It starts with  funny electronica with flutes on top of it, in some kind of dialogue with one another, into a playful, slightly more abstract Plato-shadow game. It is as if some essence developed and collected from some ethnical source here is translated or transformed into a more futuristic vision or for some different out-of-space cybernetic perceptive ears. This piece ends with deformed Indian percussive vocals with percussion mixed with electronica. (My son of nine said : “I know how this is made : the voices are just speeded up” ; funny how he contributes in listening attentively). 

“Kokoni Sachiari” has more techno-electronic breakbeat vision of other ideas from Indian music (sitar, vocals, etc.). Also “Tabla Bol” shows another variation of how one can also record/perform/bring a vocals/tabla duet mixed with some electronica. The way the result sounds, reminds me a bit more of Indonesia than of India. 

“Radio-No-Youni” after this is a brilliant adaptation of the instrumental part of a Brigitte Fontaine song called ‘Comme a la radio” played with odd guitar, electronica, a mouthharmonica kind of instrument. This is mixed surprisingly with sitar, percussion and trumpet. A version, which I think Brigitte would appreciate too. 

The album closes perfectly with a moody outro calm track, called "Kutsu", played by trumpet, percussion on a rhythm of sometimes-clicking-together maracas.


There are so many ideas in this album, which are built up well and which hang so well together. This project comes over like group with genius from which this item shows many reconsiderations of some essences of music ,with new different visions to it. 


The album was recorded by Kiyosho Kusaka who added his own ideas into the mix and has additional musicians contributing for strings, voice samples and so on (Yoshimi P-We, Kazufumi Kodoma, Miki Supercar, Punku Boi, with Shika Udai Strings (?), Pianica Maeda (?) and Naruyoshi Kikuchi (?).



Leaf Rec.  Asa-Chang & Junray : Tsu Gi Ne Pu (JAP,2002)****°


This release is listed on this webpage not because it is Indian World Fusion with additional beats, but, completely different. It is as an item that can give a completely different idea how to use for instance tabla-like sounds and rhythmical vocals or Indian elements mixed with other music and in a different context than is usual. It can give valuable ideas of how to form new fusions with Indian music & rhythms. This item is in fact inventive new music with only occasional elements which are only given value for the musical composition purposes.


The first track, “Toremoro”, is a composition with Star Trek’s control panel and elevator-like sounds wonderfully mixed with a mechanical birdsound melody and tabla, followed by a timpani and vocal rhythm with tabla, which has a reference to the Indian vocal rhythm style but is in fact made with what I assume is Japanese language. Here one can already hear what inspired Asa-Chang mostly for this mini-album : on the almost technical rhythm of (Japanese) word combinations. The album title and a hidden bonus track after a large section of silence on the last track refers to this original inspiration which came after having heard a recitation of a poem equally called 'Tsu Gi Ne Pu' by Sadakazu Fujii, which mixed up modern Japanese with very old school language. This poem had a Dadaist tone-poem sphere to it, with almost mathematical rhythmical sections of minimal repetition. On the first track this idea became just a small element of a larger and wider musical composition. The voice with tabla combination then is built up with a stronger effect of additional keyboards outbursts, until the original sound combination (-Startrek meets flute-) fades this brilliant composition away. 


Second track, “Tsuginepu to Ittemita” is build up with some sweet Japanese sounding tones of  Electronic sounds which are mixed with Japanese words recited rhythmically and poetically, made stronger with some computer mix of it, on a complex tabla rhythm which follows the vocals or otherwise. With these elements the composition has three layers. Beautiful ! 


The third track, “Xylophone” is a short, recognisable song with funny touches of arrangements, like a funny sweep sweep or blup blup rhythm in the electronic touches which follows the inner rhythm. Then some sitar is mixed in nicely together with some keyboard voice arrangements. A light moment with a serious approach.


The fourth track, “Kaikyo” has some brassband fun (solo and duo), with a sea shore sound effect added like a rhythmic effect as a chorus part. The composition has more built up rhythmical fun percussion parts, with more keyboard choirs, some acoustic guitars and simple tchip chip rhythms. Another fun moment, as bloody serious music. 


Last short track, “Kutsu #3” has sweet alive electronic sounds with whirly sounds, as basics for a moody improvisational melody with trumpet and harmonica.


Asa-Chang & Junray have proved to me once more the genius behind their inspiration.


After more than 10 minutes of silence, the original tone poem which did set the tone for the original renewed inspiration is added. This poem, a repetition of words, is mixed with an electronic mathematical series pattern in tones (like 1-2-3-5-8..). It sounds a bit like a combination of an original language instruction lesson and a poetic idea. It’s at the same time otherworldly and abstract, and it contains the essence of early minimalism in it, and the true essence of early contemporary music.


Highly recommended !


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