Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra is Celebrating 30 Years of Music! |#Interview

By: Estefanía Romero

The band is celebrating its 30th anniversary in México. Their characteristic sound is known as a product deeply influenced by the underground 80’s Tokyo’s musical scene, which was filled with Jazz and Ska. Although the band has changed through time and it has added some other characteristics or ideas to their playing. The band is known all around the world and now they are coming here to play at the Festival Internacional Cervantino.

They gave us a fun and interesting interview talking about their career…

How does a Japanese band decide to play this music that is mainly a mix of Jazz and Ska, both being the result of the Americas Colonization? Do you ever stop and think about how incredible that is?

We have to admit most of the music-the roots of rock, R&B, blue, soul, jazz, punk music, you name more, were created by African Americans.

We believe in Music and its power to unite people.

What does Japan think of your music? Was it taken as an innovation there?

Strangely enough, we exist both in underground and overground music scenes in Japan.  We are a rare band in a way that we are mainly instrumental whereas most of the pop bands in Japan are vocal music.  We are happy that they like our music.

Who are your idols in music?

Depends on whom to ask!  -Skatalites, The Specials, The Police, The Clash, Sonny Rollins, Caetano Veloso, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs…

When Oki, Yanaka were in a high school band, the first artist we covered was David Bowie, hahaha.

You always choose the right song to arrange, either it could be the God Father’s main theme, Caravan, Tin Tin Deo, Brazil, the Pink Panther Theme Song, or Let’s Stay Together… how do you get to decide this? Who is the arranger in your band?

Oh! Thank you!  Glad you like our choice!  We all come up with the songs we like to play.  The horn arrangement is done by Masahiko Kitahara (tb). But the overall arrangement, we all work together.

Do you think that your sound has evolved through this 30 years of career? How has it changed?

We like to evolve with the current music scenes.  We call ourselves a ska band but we are not just ska. We play variety of music adopting whatever interests us in that moment.

Tell us about the highest points through the evolution of your career. What had to happen for you to be a world known Ska Jazz band?

Thanks for calling us a world known ska jazz band!  We are honored.  It is hard to tell by ourselves what was the highest point… But we have to say coming to Mexico totally opened up our eyes.  Playing music in Mexico and even in other Latin American countries, we gain a lot of energy from the audience from their love toward music.  When we compose music, we always think about the audience.

Image taken from the Cervantino official website.

You’ve taken Jazz themes, improvisation and complex music dancing to a popularity that hasn’t been seen since the Big Band era. How does that make you feel?

Glad you feel that way.  The horn players, especially Kitahra, Gamo and Nargo have jazz background.  Kitahara is still very active in his jazz shows when he has time outside of TSPO.

Youve played Cielito Lindo. Who are your favorite Mexican composers?

Gamo came up with the idea of covering Cielito Lindo.  Especially Gamo and Kinichi Motegi love Latin nostalgic melodies.  We dont have (a) particular composer we like but we in general are attracted to the beautiful melodies of Mexican music.  We really enjoy playing Cafe Tacvba’s Eres as well.

Has anyone mocked about you playing Take Five on a 4/4 time signature instead of one in 4/5?

Hahaha.  That’s funny.

What can we expect from your next concert at the Festival Internacional Cervantino?

We are looking forward to visiting the beautiful historical city!  We are very happy that we can visit Cervantino during our 30th anniversary.  This tour will condense our history of music!

Is there anything that you would like to add?

We just like to say we are thankful to our fans in Mexico who are always waiting for us with open arms!  We can’t wait to see you this month in 4 beautiful cities of Mexico!