Photo: Bryony McIntyre

Kan Mikami & JO JO Hiroshige


11 May 2007  •  The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead

Folk poet, actor and bon viveur, Kan Mikami is one of the key figures around which the Japanese underground revolves.  Briefly famous in the early 70’s, his politically charged, absurd and obscene lyrics and probing guitar strum, gave voice to the undercurrent of radical, anti-establishment sentiments and sexual liberation coursing through the Japanese underground at the time. 

He was even, for a while, signed to a major label, before disappearing from view and resurfacing in the mid 80’s with a slew of releases on PSF, often in collaboration with a clutch of Japanophile favourites including Keiji Haino, Masayoshi Urabe and Kan’s great friend Kazuki Tomokawa. Mikami’s songs are soaked through in the traditions of international folk movements - English Folk, Delta Blues, and even Fado.  But it’s through the lens of the Japanese Enka that Mikami warps his songs of desire, rebellion and agitation; a form often overly sentimental to Western ears, but in Mikami’s hands a compelling, and emotionally levelling weapon.  When we first invited Mikami over to the UK in 2004, I think I described him along the lines of a Delta shaman, invoking visions in the gloaming dusk. Certainly, his gruff, vulnerable voice, (delivering strangled cries and venomous, maybe even murderous barks) carries all the power, and speaks of as many political and personal truths of the great bluesmen, Charlie Patton on.


Jojo Hiroshige is a founding member of the great (est?) Japanese Noise band Hijokaidan, of which Junko is also a member. Starting out in the late 70’s they helped define a sound of crushing intensity, Aktionist influenced physical spectacle and destructive onstage ritual.  To this day they remain an incredible live act, and hand on my heart one of the most unbelievable, life-affirming bands I’ve ever seen perform (and the only one to invoke stage diving from both crowd and band members at one of our festivals). But Jojo has also collaborated widely outside of Hijoakidan, in duo’s with Junko, and with a host of artists on his own legendary Alchemy imprint, all of them marked by a distinct, thudding take on post Blue Cheer riffage, dissonant guitar squall and emotionally declaimed cries of amongst other things, love.  His hook up with Mikami, never before seen outside of Japan is the real deal: heavy, psyched out, intense and explosive.


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