Francis Bebey -Black Tears (1965)

this rare 10″ by guitarist Francis Bebey was found in a box of records that I got from a good friend. Thanks for such a wonderful gift!

Unfortunately this record had once been a bit too close to a heat source, causing damage to the edge of the cover and the disc itself. The edge of the record has a warp so that side A can no longer be played, but fortunately side B plays quite nicely.
Because these recordings are so beautiful and unique, I want to share them with you.

see also Yuletide Griots Riot

Francis Bebey, who was born on the 15th of July 1929  in Douala Cameroon, is both a composer and guitarist.

His compositions as presented to the public during various European recitals, are neither African folk music nor jazz, nor Western classical music. His music remains deeply attached tot he values of the African negro tradition, as he knew and lived it during his childhood.

About ‘Black Tears’

Francis Bebey in a Q/A with Lepold Sedar Senghor -from a 1965 interview with Francis Bebey on the liner notes of the original cover.

A: ‘Black Tears ‘has three main themes: the first one represents tears of sadness and despair; the third, which is gayer, denotes tears of joy.

Q: You mean laughing till one cries?

A: Exactly

Q: and the little tune which recurs from time to time, and on which the piece ends?

A: That is the theme of Life –always serene and indifferent to sorrow, pettiness or racial prejudice –Life, which has always been beautiful, ever since Creation

Q: in the  tears of joy passage we hear a real African tom-tom  sequence. Who accompanied you in this movement?

A: No-one

Q: You mean you superimposed it later?

A: Not at all. It was played at the same time, on the guitar. Of course, I was very happy when the idea came to me, and when I was first able to realize it. But I think we have talked enough –how about some music?

From the liner notes of Francis Bebey –Pieces pour guitare seule –Compositions for solo guitar

(Ocora Records OCR 27 –France – 1965)

in times of trouble

Comfort Me….in times of trouble.

Stay safe and healthy wherever you are in the World.

‘Ndibkhumbule, Nkosi (Remember Me, Oh Lord)’ -sung in Xhosa
soprano, choir & piano
The Lord bless you and keep you’
choir & orchestra

from a live recording of a concert held in Port Elizabeth (EC) on Saturday 5th March 2005.
Visit of Chief Apostle Richard Fehr.
Richard Fehr (15 July 1939 – 30 June 2013) was the seventh Chief Apostle (international church president) of the New Apostolic Church from 22 May 1988 to 15 May 2005.

The New Apostolic Church (NAC) is a chiliastic Christian church that split from the Catholic Apostolic Church during an 1863 schism in Hamburg, Germany.

Comfort Me’ by Shirley Caesar
US gospel singer

Manu Dibango: African saxophone legend dies of Covid-19

a child raised in the ‘Hallelujah’ has died

one of the first BIG dance tunes of my youth was ‘Soul Makossa’ in 1972. It was played on repeat in clubs and the radio in Belgium, France, everywhere. And it still packs floors. Such a timeless Afro-groove, what a great musician Manu Dibango was. So sad to know that he is the first musician to die from the Covid-19 virus. Such a loss. Manu Dibango (born December 12th, 1933, Douala, Cameroon-died March 24th, 2020, in Paris, France) RIP.

see also Blue Elephant -Manu Dibango 1974

Manu Dibango -OST ‘How To Make Love To A Negro Without Getting Tired’ 1989

Manu Dibango vs Chateau Flight -Soul Fiesta

Dig the Latin bag, bro!

Emmanuel N"Djoke Dibango, known as Manu Dibango performs during his concert at the Ivory Hotel Abidjan in 2018

The African saxophone legend Manu Dibango has died in Paris after catching coronavirus.

Dibango – best known for his 1972 hit Soul Makossa – is one of the first global stars to die from Covid-19.

The 86-year-old fused jazz and funk music with traditional sounds from his home country, Cameroon.

He collaborated with numerous artists over a long career, including US pianist Herbie Hancock and Nigeria’s Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

The Cameroonian musician filed a lawsuit in 2009 saying Michael Jackson had stolen a hook from his song, Soul Makossa, for two tracks on the world’s best-selling album, Thriller. Jackson settled the case out of court.Media captionManu Dibango speaks about some of his memorable outings

“It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove,” a statement on his official Facebook page read.

His funeral will take place in “strict privacy”, the statement read, asking instead for people to send condolences by email and adding that a tribute will be arranged “when possible”.

Top African musicians Angelique Kidjo and Youssou Ndour have led the tributes.

‘Giant of African music’

On Twitter, Kidjo shared a video, recorded two months ago, of her rehearsing the end of Soul Makossa with Dibango.

“You’re the original giant of African music and a beautiful human being,” the Beninois performer wrote.

Twitter post by @angeliquekidjo: VerifiedDear #ManuDibango, you’ve always been there for me from my beginnings in Paris to this rehearsal just 2 months ago! You re the original Giant of African Music and a beautiful human being. This coda of #SoulMakossa is for you!

Ndour called the Cameroonian a “genius” on the saxophone and described him as a “big brother, a pride for Cameroon and all of Africa”.

Both Ndour and Kidjo, along with other stars such as Salif Keita, Papa Wemba and King Sunny Ade, worked on Dibango’s 1994 album Wakafrika.

Speaking to the BBC in 2013 about how he wanted to be remembered, Dibango said: “When you are gone, it is finished, it is not up to me to say, ‘I want this.'”

Archive shot of Manu Dibango
Image captionManu Dibango, seen here in 1970, drew on a wide range of musical influences

Born in the Cameroonian city of Douala in 1933, which at the time was under French colonial rule, Dibango’s musical career spanned across more than six decades.

‘Raised in the Hallelujah’

He grew up in a religious Protestant family, the AFP news agency reports, and his first musical influences came from the church.

“I’m a child raised in the ‘Hallelujah’,” he is quoted as saying.

But he drew on many influences and was well known for his eclectic style.

“I play different kinds of music before playing my own. I think that that’s very important to play other people’s music,” he told the BBC in 2017.

“As you are African they expect you always to play African. Forget that. You’re not a musician because you’re African. You’re a musician because you are musician. Coming from Africa, but first, musician.”

Manu Dibango
Image captionDibango failed his high school exams after being distracted by music

He was sent to high school in France, which is where he learnt to play the saxophone.

The first tune he performed, in front of fellow students, was When the Saints Go Marching In, he told the BBC.

To the disappointment of his father, Dibango failed his high school exams and took up music performing in nightclubs in Belgium instead, AFP reports.

source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52017834?fbclid=IwAR2r0uLDS2rCJiAxKCFqF95c7CHHUnwXhP9gfLeL3E1pCeK2X05g01KCwJs

a tribute to the Sharpeville massacre March 21, 1960

on my recent trip to South Africa last January 2020 I found this LP ‘How Long’, a recording of an obscure musical, written in 1973 by Gibson Kente (born July 23, 1932, Duncan Village, near East London, South Africa – died November 7, 2004, Soweto, South Africa).

Gibson Kente was a South African playwright, screenplay writer and musician. He also taught many high profile South African performers how to act, sing and dance, including Brenda Fassie and Mbongeni Ngema.

Gibson Kente

One of his earlier works ‘Sikalo’ (1966) was already in my collection but ‘How Long’ is another eye-opener. Musically the compositions are quite diverse, from African jazz to hymns, beautifully performed by a group of singers and musicians unknown to me; Zakithi Diamini, Zakes Kuse, Mary Twala, Ndaba Twala and others.

The condition of the LP was poor, scratched vinyl, torn worn cover with the name Bra Cecil on the labels, it clearly was once a well loved record in a township somewhere….

I thought that the theme of this musical and the music fits the date and spirit of this post perfectly. The musical ‘How Long’ is a document that reminds me of the horror of the Sharpeville massacre on March 21, 1960. Exactly 60 years ago. Today 21st March 2020 we commemorate Sharpeville and Human Rights Day.

Both sides of this LP can be heard in their integrality with all the crackle and hiss but the music still stands proud.

Read the story below on Sharpeville….

Tracklist

Overture (African Jazz)2:30
How Long (African Ballad)2:30
Thixo Mkhululi (African Hymn)0:52
Themba Limbi (African Hymn)2:55
Africa Sings (African Folk)2:30
The Lord Is My Shepherd (African Hymn)2:30
Uthando Noxolo (African Hymn)2:22
Batata (African Jazz)2:45
Dustbin (African Jazz)2:45
Kode-Kubenini (African Jazz)2:15
My Belief (African Ballad)3:00
Black Child (African Ballad)2:30
Hamba Afrika (African Folk)1:50
Have Faith In God (African Hymn)1:40
Uyandi Phatha Phatha (African Vocal Jive)2:20

Sharpeville massacre

SOUTH AFRICAN HISTORY [1960]WRITTEN BY: 

LAST UPDATED: Mar 14, 2020 See Article History

Sharpeville massacre, (March 21, 1960), incident in the black township of Sharpeville, near VereenigingSouth Africa, in which police fired on a crowd of black people, killing or wounding some 250 of them. It was one of the first and most violent demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa.

apartheid: aftermath of the deadly Sharpeville demonstration
apartheid: aftermath of the deadly Sharpeville demonstrationThe wounded being tended to after police opened fire on an antiapartheid demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, 1960.Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), a splinter group of the African National Congress (ANC) created in 1959, organized a countrywide demonstration for March 21, 1960, for the abolition of South Africa’s pass laws. Participants were instructed to surrender their reference books (passes) and invite arrest. Some 20,000 blacks gathered near a police station at Sharpeville, located about 30 miles (50 km) south of Johannesburg. After some demonstrators, according to police, began stoning police officers and their armoured cars, the officers opened fire on them with submachine guns. About 69 blacks were killed and more than 180 wounded, some 50 women and children being among the victims. A state of emergency was declared in South Africa, more than 11,000 people were detained, and the PAC and ANC were outlawed. Reports of the incident helped focus international criticism on South Africa’s apartheid policy. Following the dismantling of apartheid, South African President Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site at which, on December 10, 1996, he signed into law the country’s new constitution.

source; The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

A Tribute to South African Airways

A Tribute to South African Airways -Suid Afrikaanse Lugdiens-

now that most airlines face such hard times, I would like to pay this tribute to South African Airways. The expiration date of this company is no longer guaranteed, but it would be a real disaster for South Africa if this beautiful company disappears. Come on people, fly SAA as long as you can.

this rare single was written and recorded by famous band leader Dan Hill. The text in Afrikaans was written by Anton De Waal, the English words by Ralph Trewhela.

Used as a promotional tool around early 1960s, this recording depicts clearly the self-confidence and boosts the success of South African Airways during the The Jet Age: 1953–1973

lucky you in the blue

South African Airways was founded in 1934 after the acquisition of Union Airways by the South African government. The airline was initially overseen and controlled by South African Railways and Harbours Administration. Anti-apartheid sanctions by African countries deprived the airline of stopover airports during apartheid, forcing it to bypass the continent with long-range aircraft. During this time, it was also known by its Afrikaans name, Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens (SAL, lit. ”South African air service”), which has since been dropped by the airline. In 1997 SAA changed its name, image and aircraft livery and introduced online ticketing services. In 2006, SAA was split from Transnet, its parent company, to operate as an independent airline. It remains one of the largest of South Africa’s state owned enterprises. SAA owns Mango, a low-cost domestic airline, and has established links with Airlink and South African Express. It is a member of the Star Alliance.

but for how long?

On 5 December 2019, the Government of South Africa announced that SAA would enter into bankruptcy protection, as the airline has not turned a profit since 2011 and ran out of money. In January 2020, South African Airways announced that it will suspend several routes, national and international, in order to reduce its financial struggle.

source; wikipedia

A Cosmopolitan Night With Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores

Todays post features one of the most charming and unusually good lounge records found in South Africa on my last safari during the past few months

I am happy to add this rare album to my ever-growing collection of music for restaurant, nightclubs and lounges

The album “A Cosmopolitan Night With Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores” was recorded live in the mid 60s at the Lourenco Marques Restaurant  in Johannesburg, while the cover photo was taken at another restaurant/club The Casino in Johannesburg

The repertoire represents that cosmopolitan sound that was ever so popular in the 60s in the nightlife and restaurants where the South African well-heeled big city dwellers came to dance and romance;  Cha Cha, Tango, Baion, Rumba and Mediterrean popular music. All arranged and played by a South African female bandleader and singer accompanied by The Rumbadores and choral group The Mellotones…

A very well know group working in the same style and sound as Silva Bera were The Chakachas, a Belgian based group of Latin soul and Afro Cuban studio musicians, founded in 1958 by bandleader Gaston Bogaert.

See also my previous posts

Last night at the Carlton, Johannesburg with Renatino di Napoli

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part One 

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

A Cosmopolitan Night With Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores

Silva Bera was born in Istanbul. Her father is a Turk, her mother is Greek and her grandmother is Italian. At the age of five she started playing the piano, singing and composition at the Conservatoire of Athens for twelve year. It was there that she learnt her unique microphone technique and stage presentation. Apart from Miss Bera’s remarkable musical ability she speaks Turkish, Greek, French, Italian and English fluently and sings in many other languages like Hebrew, Portuguese and Spanish.

She came to South Africa as a young singer and has performed in most of the best Johannesburg restaurants, where she has thrilled her audiences with her husky voice and Continental charm. She is accompanied by Her Rumbadores and  she is probably the only woman bandleader in the country and although she finds this difficult, she will never lose courage, as she hopes to make her contribution to music in South Africa.

She has become known as the Catherina Valente of South Africa and although she is very proud of this status, she prefers to be known by her own style. South African musicians like Dan Hill and many others have helped and inspired to success and she is most grateful tot hem.  

Silva Bera’s versatility and vibrant personality are predominant on this variety packed album.

see also my previous post on Dan Hill and Dana Valery

‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli

Listen to both sides of this rare album in its original sequence with live audience participating…

MAMADU is a fast cha cha which she sings in Brazilian.

She sings HANEGEV, a sad desert song, in Hebrew and in a man’s voice. A soldier sings to his mother from the desert, telling her that it is his duty to fight.

SALADE DE FRUITS is sung in French with a cha cha rhythm. The girl’s fiance name is Fruit Salad. She asks him to marry her because she likes him and everything he does.

POR DOS BESOS is sung in Spanish and Italian and is a Tango Cha Cha. It is the story of a girl who tells her boyfriend not to joke with love and to marry her. This is an extremely difficult song to sing because the lyrics alternate between Spanish and Italian with every two words.

Miss Bera sings IMITTOS in Greek and the rhythm is a baion.

The Rumbadores open Side Two of the record with their own special interpretation of GOLDEN GIRL, which is followed by Miss Bera singing in English her own arrangement of AROUND THE WORLD in a cha cha rhythm.

There are two songs which are special features on the album, introducing the drummer of the Rumbadores, Stefano La Placa, who sings LET ME CRY and TINTERELLA DI LUNA.

Miss Bera sings AL DI LA in italian and in a slow rock style.

SIFIRIZO is her own composition, which means I’m Whistling. It is a slow baion and is sung in Greek. It is about a street girl who blames society for what she has become and walks the streets whistling when she is looking for a man.

BAN DI RUOLA is a fast cha cha sung in italian.

All the choral backings on this album are provided by The Mellotones.

Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores –A Cosmopolitan Night With (Continental Records ZB 8025- South Africa)

Also re-issued as  Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores:Turkish Delight (Black Cat Productions 2016)

Happy New Year 2020! Soul Safari’s SA Soul Jazz Mix

to celebrate the first day of the New Year 2020 Soul Safari focuses on those great vintage South African soul jazz tunes as a tribute to the musicians who made them.

Real obscure and collectible titles by The Drive, The Shyannes, The Sounds or The Nightingales but also a rarity by better known Cape Jazz artist like Morris Goldberg. Enjoy this selection of original singles and a few albums, ranging from 1969 to 1985…all from the Soul Safari collection.

Soul Safari will continue in 2020 reporting on music that is made NOW… as well as unearthing the lost gems of South African dance music past. Covering music from soul to jazz to underground disco to old skool kwaito, bubblegum and forgotten music library classics.

Soul Safari 2020 Happy New Year -Soul Jazz Mix tracklist

The Shyannes -Osakai
The Go-Aheads -Go Ahead (pt 1)
The Shyannes -Half Moon
The Nightingales -Dyambo
Sons Of Thunder -Break Down
Soul Breakers -Crying Soul Nr. 2
The Sounds -Good People
The Drive -Stuck In The Middle With You
Soul Giants -Soul Prayer
The Jazz Clan -Oh Happy Day
The Morris Goldberg Quartet -D.B.B.
The Drive -Iphi Intombi Yam (pt 1)
The Drive -Iphi Intombi Yam (pt 2)
The Drive -Shambala
The Shyannes -Havanna Strut
The Bee Dees -Big Brother
The Sounds -Coming Home
The Sounds -Thiba Kamoo

Soul Safari Yuletide 2019 -Township Boogie Disco Mix

This year Soul Safari brings you a special Township Boogie & Disco Mix for the Yuletide season…most tracks were originally released as 45 rpm singles between 1979-1986. Some of the earliest examples of Boogie/Disco music from South Africa comes from Cape Jazz artist Mike Makhalemele (1979) and a gem by singer Kumasi (1982), along with long time favorites like The Hot Soul Singers, Street Kids, Ebony mixed with some real obscure goodies as well….Thandi Seoka, TSB and Thandi Bgonwe. One of the great Cape Jazz artists, Mike Makhalemele performs ‘Disco Freaks’, truly a 1979 Boogie/Disco holy grail from South Africa. Enjoy this mix as much as I loved selecting and mixing it. Happy Holidays!

Soul Safari Yuletide 2019 -Township Boogie Disco Mix

n Kersboodskappie van Vader Kristmis

Thandi Seoka -Social Gatherings

Thandi Seoka -On The Floor

Desiree -You’ve Lost A Good Thing

Bones Delight -From Guguletu To Soweto

Street Kids -Try Me (Game Nr. 2)

Kumasi -Anomakoliwa

Kumasi -What’s On Your Mind

Ebony -I Need Somebody

Sunset feat The Hot Soul Singers -She Looks Good

TSB (The Smash Band) -Payday (instrumental)

Thandi Mbongwe -Our Love (part 1)

Thandi Mbongwe -Our Love (part 2)

Starlite -Celebrate Our Love

Bones Delight -Everybody Needs A Holiday

Julian Laxton -Time Is Tight (A-Go-Go Mixx)

Disco 6 -Magic Flight

Mike Makhalemele -Disco Freaks

Zeebra -Balega

live@Raindance Amsterdam/Tanzania/Kenya 14th September 2019

Raindance in Amsterdam, Vondelpark

Chief Sankale of the Masai people at Raindance A’dam
listen to Soul Safari’s DJ set at Raindance Amsterdam, 14 September 2019
guided by rhythm, touched by the spirits
crowd @ Raindance Amsterdam

and simultaneously Raindance happened in Kenya

and simultaneously Raindance happened in Tanzania

Joh Makini representing in Tanzania!

Diggin’ in Japan vol 8 -Tokyo update December 2018

one of the longest running and most consistent posts on Soul Safari is undoubtedly ‘Diggin’ in Japan’. Some are written by myself, other posts are first hand experiences by my friend and dedicated collector MP Flapp. All visits are documented with lots of tips on how to travel to Japan, how to get around within the cities, where to find the best places to eat, to chill and spend your cash…. no detail is spared!

dj MP FLAPP @ Wonderland, Paradiso Amsterdam 2018

The latest in the series is Mp Flapp’s report of his journey through the land of the rising sun and the many record stores in Japan, updated version 2018.

see also diggin’ in Japan vol 1; Tokyo record shops

diggin’ in Japan vol 2; Osaka finds

diggin’ in Japan, vol 3; One Box Record Fair Tokyo

diggin’ in Japan vol 4-El Sur Records Tokyo-interview with Takashi Harada

Diggin’ in Japan; vol 5 Tokyo Dec 2014 by MP Flapp

Diggin’ in Japan; vol 6 Osaka Dec 2014 by MP Flapp

Diggin’ in Tokyo & Osaka vol 7 -December 2015

On the Vinyl trail in Tokyo, update December 2018

Part One: Forever Changes (Tokyo)

                I believe the last time I put pen to paper with respect the hunt for musty vinyl in Japan was back in 2015. As you might expect a lot has changed on the Japanese vinyl trail since then… This trip was a particularly a good one as the adventure started in Amsterdam in a late night café with this blogs author Eddy De Clercq and Japanese DJ Jun following a fantastic party playing records in the adult kindergarten as part of the Wonderland event at the Paradiso on 14th December 2018. One of those events where the conversation naturally arrives as record shops both past and present… the places where unexpected treasures are found or the proprietor is always good at highlighting recommendations based on what you’ve selected to listen to or buy…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dj-jun-wonderland.jpg
dj JUN @ Wonderland, Paradiso Amsterdam 2018

                It would have been a missed opportunity (you never know what you might find) if the next morning DJ Jun and I hadn’t taken a quick tour of a subset of Amsterdam’s record shops before our respective flights… his back to South Africa and mine to Japan via Vienna and Frankfurt…  

             FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS I USED TO ARRIVE AT TOKYO’S NARITA AIRPORT WHICH IS SITUATED ABOUT 90 MINS OUTSIDE THE CITY…

after an epic overnight flight or en-route home with cases full of records it’s a bit of a long journey to and from the airport to the city centre. On the last couple of trips I’ve opted to fly to Haneda instead as the airport is within 20 min of the city centre by metro. It also has the advantage of being about 30/40 Euros by taxi from many central hotel locations. Flights to Haneda are about the same price as Narita Airport from Europe; at times they can be cheaper. A number of flights to Haneda from Europe arrive around lunchtime as opposed to 8 am meaning it’s possible to check-in to the hotel on arrival. In addition, with Haneda being so close to the city centre, there is no need to exchange your JR travel voucher for a Japan Rail Pass on arrival. Arriving at Narita it makes sense to obtain the JR travel pass to save buying a ticket for the train from the airport to the city centre.

                This trip is a few days less than previous years. The loose agenda is to spend a day and a half in Tokyo, travel down to Osaka, go on to Fukuoka before return to Osaka for a few more days then back to Tokyo for a day before catching the flight home. 

                 On arrival, bags dropped at the hotel there is just under half a day left to go digging. From the hotel it’s possibly to go in a sort of short circle by metro and take in two locations (Shinjuku and Ochanomizu) both with a high concentration of stores before returning to the hotel.

                In Shinjuku there are two clusters of stores either side of main train station. Short on time the focus is on the south-east side of the station and the pocket of Disk Union stores… with more time a trip to Dub Store on the other side of the station is more than recommended. My interest in Japanese music has changed quite a bit over the last few years… first port of call these days is the Disk Union Japanese Pop (Kayoukyoku) basement store… always loaded with great 45s and given it’s end of the year, the premium 60s/70s stock is out… often records that very rarely appear on-line are on display… not always cheap, but in person you can check the condition and quality. Depending on how busy the store is you can give batches of five to seven records a listen to ensure they are as expected…

A couple of floors above the Japanese Pop store is the Disk Union soundtrack store… again always worth a visit… not that I’m big on CDs, but there are some Japanese soundtrack music from the 60s/70s that was never released at the time and only issued on CD at a later date… always worth having a look just in case… with the advent of relatively cheap one-off lathe cut 45s there’s not harm in buying the CD and cutting a couple of the tracks (edited or not) to a one copy 45…

A few hundred meters up the street from the first location is the main Disk Union store in the area. The store is split over eight floors, covers near ever genre imaginable from almost every corner of the planet. I usually do the basement location first as it covers Japanese releases both old and new. There is a small crossover in stock with the Japanese Pop store, but in general the selection in unique to this location. From here it’s up to seventh floor of punk then down through the New Wave/Avant-Garde on the sixth floor to the Latin, Brazilian, African and Reggae on the fifth floor before finishing up in the Progressive Rock selection on the fourth floor.

Disk Union

There are another three Disks Union stores in the area worth visiting depending on your taste: the Dance store covering everything from Soul to Techno, the Rock Store split over two floors covering rock in its many forms and the General Store which is completely across the board. To do all of these stores on a half day you kind of need to be going through the racks fairly quickly and selectively. It’s fairly easy to get side tracked and spend a lot of time waiting to hear records. The listening policy is enforced quite strictly when the stores are busy. At weekends or early evening it’s easy to end up in a queue of six or seven people and lose 30/40 minutes waiting. The best approach is make a note of titles that are unknown, try and check them on-line or keep the listening to early morning visits, soon after the store has opened. 

                Next stop Ochanomizu which is a short ride on the Chuo from Shinjuku. In a couple of hours you can do about seven stores before closing time which varies between 8pm and 9pm. There are a few more record stores in the area coupled with some fantastic book stores, but that tour requires quite a bit more time to do.

                 The first stop is the Jazz Disk Union which is five minutes’ walk from Ochanomizu station. There is a bit more than Jazz going on here as the annex on the same floor covers a broad selection of Japanese groove, Latin and funk. However, if it’s Jazz you’re looking for this is the place to come based on volume of stock and range on offer. One of the most notable changes over the years has been the change in interest from overseas Jazz to domestic Jazz. Gone are the days when Japanese Jazz records were easy to find at sensible prices… releases on Three Blind Mice, in top condition with OBI and booklet are now near impossible to find at regular prices. 

                A short walk from the Jazz Disk Union is the main Disk Union store in the area… it’s a fairly broad genre crossing selection, but the real gems are in the selection of domestic releases in stock. The overseas Folk, Psych and Progressive Rock sections are worth a mention as they tend to be loaded with items you only see on-line or at record fairs in Europe. The records are suitably priced, but it is nice to see these records appear as shop stock.

                My favourite 45 store, Orient is about 15mins walk from Disk Union down the hill in Kanda. It’s not the size of the store that makes the place so good, it’s the range of domestic releases from the 50s through to the 80s… it’s a curated selection that tends to be in top condition. There isn’t the ability to listen to records in store, so you need to know what you are looking for. That said it’s fairly straight forward to find clips on-line.

                Walking towards Jinbocho from Orient there are four store of note: a further Disk Union, Tacto – Showa Music, Fuji Record Sya and the highlight Record Sya. Record Sya was established in 1930 and is affiliated to the Fuji Record Sya store. It’s possibly not a store for the hipster, but for those collectors looking for something a little off the radar…

                One advantages of finishing the day here is that between Record Sya and Ochanomizu station there are a myriad of places to stop to eat and drink. The better Sake places tend to be Yakitori (grilled chicken) spots. However, for the vegitarians there’s a laid back Okonomiyaki restaurant in the area that is hard to beat. Okonomiyaki is a highly addictive savoury pancake like disk more associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan. Until I make it further south, this is an ideal way to finish the day… sort of a flavour of things to come.

                 When asked where would go record shopping with a whole day to spare?

My regular response is Shibuya and Shimokitazawa. The rational being both areas are relatively close together, have a great selection of records stores, are totally different architecturally and have more to see and do that just record shopping… 

                Starting is Shibuya the first port of call is the basement of the main Disk Union in the area for the Jazz, rare groove, reggae and global sounds… if possibly its best to go early on a weekday close to opening time as the store is loaded with stock, but a little tight for customer space. Aside from the mix of stock what I like about this store is the broad price range… most of the stock is sensibly priced and accessibly to anyone, but for the collector there are items you very rarely see in a shop… the type of records that appear in auctions or on the wall at record fairs… often not cheap, but priced and available… The priced factor is quite a good point. There is nothing worse as a buyer than going in to one of those stores where the records aren’t priced. Anything you bring to the counter the sales assistant has to look-up on Discogs, often quoting the highest price the record sold for… this isn’t cool in the slightest… it’s a bit like buying a beer in Berlin and the barperson suggesting it’s eleven Euros as that’s the price the last beer in Tokyo sold for… if you run a store… pick a price, put it on a sticker and stick it on the record…

A short walk from Disk Union is RecoFan on the fourth floor of Beam store. It took me a while to realise why there weren’t really rare records in store. These items appear to be made available on-line via stores Yahoo Auctions presence. Even without a selection of high end records in store the shop is good for finding common titles in great condition at sensible prices…

The next stop is the local HMV shop which is little further along the street from Disk Union. One of the strangest record stores (from a stock perspective) I’ve even been too once existed on tenth floor of the building that now houses HMV on the ground floor. Manuel of Errors stocked the broadest range of left field exotica, lounge, private press and abstract electronica from the 1950s to present. Sadly the shop closed about two years ago and to the best of my knowledge there isn’t similar store anywhere in Tokyo. The HMV store may not be quite as exotic as Manuel of Errors was, but fairly hard to beat. Split over two well sized floors you can find a mix of both new and second hand stock with the ratio of new to old being 30% new and 70% used. The blend of stock is further complemented by the mix of accessibly priced and collector’s items which again are not often cheap, but are available.

                The last two stops in the area I visit are Face Records and El Sur Records… two independent stores that have existed for a number of years… Face Records is about five minute walk from HMV. It’s not the biggest of stores, but it is a store for the groove heads… the short fall in physical space is complemented by a well-stocked on-line presence and regular eBay auctions…

at el sur with owner Takahashi Harada & Eddy De Clercq

                A short walk from Face Records you’ll find El Sur Records… possibly the original purveyor of global grooves… The location of the store is relatively new, possibly three years old. The original store (also in Shibuya) was in a building that was demolished as part of the rejuvenation of the area around the station… as great as the original location was this new spot might just be a little easier to find… the store is situated on the fifth floor of a free standing block, whereas the old location was on the tenth floor of a fairly non-descript 70s building located within a unit in a veritable rabbit warren of small businesses on the floor…

                Before leaving Shibuya you could do no wrong by dropping in Los Barbados (about a ten minute walk from El Sur back in the direction of the station)… it’s not big… at a push the restaurant seats eight to ten people, but has a fantastic selection of Middle Eastern and African cuisine… with a décor to match the menu…

                Shimokitazawa is four stations (about ten minutes) on the Keio Line from Shibuya. The Keio Line is a private line so you can’t use a JR Rail pass, but the fare is only about 150 yen. Aside from record shopping, the area is a fairly laid back part of town to spend some time in… around the station on either side of the railway are many small streets of boutique style stores, cafes, restaurants and bars… if I make it to Shimokitazawa it’s usually the last stop of the day in as much as when the shopping is over, often punctuated by more than one coffee stop, it’s the place to eat and have a few relaxed drinks before heading back to the hotel…

                Of the twelve record stores in the area only one is a Disk Union, the others are independent. Possibly the best known store in the area is Flash Disk Ranch which has existed for a many years, run by husband and wife duo Masao’s and Atsuko. The stock changes frequently and the prices are sensible. The store is less about rare records and more about regular titles available as part of deals (three records for 2000 yen type offers).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flash-disc-ranch-1.jpg
Flash Disk Ranch

Round the corner from Flash Disk Ranch is City Country City, a hybrid record store come café with a limited, but excellent pasta centric menu. Ideal spot for a coffee stop. The weight of the stock is dance based covering Soul, Funk, Rare Groove to modern electronica.

                The Disk Union in the area is well worth a visit as it has an across the board selection covering almost every musical base. There are often a serious amount of rare records in store, particularly along the back wall. Almost directly across the street from Disk Union is The General Music Store. It’s not the biggest of shops, but the stock is very well curated. They often have a good selection of rare records from a broad range of genres.

MP FLAPP enjoys a naked lunch

                Of the other record stores in the area, the highlight is possibly Ella Records situated on the other side of the railway from the aforementioned stores. This is the second Ella store. The original store is based in Hatagaya. The Hatagaya store is not the easiest store to find and a little out of the way, but well worth a visit if time permits. The more accessible branch office in Shimokitazawa is really a great asset to the area. The store is spacious and has a great range of stock from about every genre imaginable. From a price perspective there is a great variety, everything from bargain bin to serious collectors’ items. The stock changes frequently and like a number of other stores on key dates of the year the store has themed sales of harder to find items.

The accessibility to an eclectic selection stock combined with a broad price range is possibly some of the elements that make record shopping in Japan quite desirable. Visiting a physical store is way better than browsing lists any day of the week. Another factor, particularly if you are fan of Japanese music, is that until quite recently finding what you were looking for or finding what you didn’t know existed was really a chance undertaking. Google translates has opened up access to a set of fan based blogs that provide details on both artists and releases that would have potentially slipped you by based on the language barrier and the fact for many years very little Japanese music has been covered in western publications in any detail. Basically in the old days you had to know someone with local knowledge who potentially knew the music you might be interested in and could recommend releases based on your interests or records you had already bought… sort of a translator with a degree of censorship based on the intermediates knowledge. The Japanese on-line translation is not perfect by any means, but after a while reading translated blogs its’ possible to deduce the gaps in the software’s ability. The software tends to make the same mistakes in selecting language… keep in mind a few inconsistences in language is way better than the days when there was no translation available at all…

Notes

  1. Compared to ten years ago where finding record stores in Japan was a sort of word of mouth exchange or a chance occurrence, today most stores have sort of on-line presence which can be translated fairly easily.  One of the most useful sites is https://recoya.net/japan – use Chrome and translate the catalogue to find the stores by city. The site is kept reasonably up-to-date.
  2. A handy phrase to type in to google maps is “レコード店” – it means “record stores” – based on where you are matches will appear on the map as green markers. Another handy one is “フリーマーケット” which translates to “flea-market” Not a perfect science, but it does turn up places you wouldn’t expect.
  3. Disk Union Shop map – https://diskunion.net/st/shop/
  4. Record Sya – https://www.recordsha.com/
  5. Nagomi Okonomiyaki – https://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1310/A131003/13199942/
  6. Yakitori and 50 Shades of Sake – https://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1310/A131003/13205392/
  7. Face Records – https://www.facerecords.com
  8. El Sur Records – http://elsurrecords.com/
  9. Lost Barbados – http://www7b.biglobe.ne.jp/~los-barbados
  10. Flash Disk Ranch – https://www.facebook.com/flashdiscranch/
  11. City Country City – http://city-country-city.com/
  12. Ella Records – http://www.ella-records.com/