Julian Cope presents JAPROCKSAMPLER.COM


Akira Ishakawa – drums, field recordings, composer
Kimio Mizutani – guitar
Takeshi Muraoka Ken – tenor sax
Masaaki Teraoka - bass

In 1971, percussionist and researcher Akira Ishakawa traveled to Africa to study the music of the Masai people of Uganda. Ishakawa was dark skinned and had dreamed of making such a trip since he was a young boy, for he believed that there was something of the native African in him. In Uganda, Ishakawa felt even more drawn to the music than he had expected and discovered real spiritual release ‘from playing my drums in this unspoiled environment’, as he wrote in the LP sleevenotes. He noted how laid back everybody was compared to Japan, how loose attitudes were to cannabis, which he smoked at a cost of one penny per joint, and how attractive he found the women, who ‘had bad body odour, but whose services I could buy for just 3000 yen’(!). Ishakawa bought drums made of zebra skin, an African piano that ‘was no more than a wooden box with steel plates stuck upon it’, and tried to buy the home made instrument of a local shaman, who upset Ishakawa greatly when the old man began to cry at the thought of parting with the tool with which he made his livelihood. Deeply moved by all of this experience, Akira returned to Japan, where he conceived of the UGANDA project and set about creating a musical ensemble, which he named Count Buffaloes. He contacted his good friends sax player Takeshi Muraoka Ken and bass player Masaaki Teraoka, with whom he began ‘creating this music, even though I knew it would not be commercial. The most important thing was its poetic truth and that it was not influenced by American music’. At first, Ishikawa instructed his musicians exactly how to play, composing, arranging, directing, and singing musical parts to the others. However, by the midpoint of the UGANDA project, sax player Maraoka was so down with Ishakawa’s muse that he began to compose with Ishikawa to a level that satisfied the drummer. The four long pieces on the record were culled from sixteen in total, and the services of wah-wah guitar fiend Kimio Mizutani were enlisted to bring a modern electric savagery to several of the tracks. As was the way of the former Out Cast guitar slinger, Mizutani over reached himself several times during the proceedings, and the results were a total psychedelic wah fuzz wipe out. Despite the record label reading ‘jazz’, this record became an African head charge unlike anything before or after.

Julian Cope
  • UGANDA (1972)

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