Meet François, aka Black Bamboo – local scratchmeister and Cheapo of note, a DJ in Tokyo. He gives us the lowdown on his work, solar-powered sets and the best places for dancing in Tokyo.
How long have you been in Tokyo and where were you before?
I’ve been in Tokyo for just shy of two years. Originally I sprouted from the ground and began my life in a bamboo grove. As a baby bamboo, I always felt like I stood out from the other bamboo. One day, a mischievous demi-god named Tengu turned me into a human. Now, I’m a fun-loving brat who likes making people dance and laugh (ed’s note: he came from Canada).
What brought you to Japan/Tokyo?
As any newly self-aware bamboo-human hybrid would do, I sought out adventure and excitement in the big city (ed’s note: he came on a teaching contract).
Tell us a bit about your DJ life in Tokyo?
I love to dance and I want to inspire other people to dance with me. Surprisingly, having fun and bringing people together for parties requires some planning. I practice DJing regularly, search for new music and organize music to genre, vibe, and energy. When I throw parties I first book venues and meetings with bar managers, and then prepare Japanese vocabulary and phrases for those meetings. I also go searching for interesting venues that are cool, conveniently located, clean and affordable to rent (easier said than done).
Fortunately I have great people in my life to help me throw parties. My team includes DJ partners, a press writer, a graphic designer, a photographer and friends. Additionally, I go to social events to meet likeminded people who want to come dance with me and have a fun night out. Meeting new people face-to-face is a fun way to get the word out about a party and I end up talking to people I might not otherwise chat with.
Briefly describe a typical day in your life?
Historically, DJs would go to record shops and search for new music. Nowadays, I ‘like’ music blogs and producers through my Facebook account where I find around 80% of my music. I practice DJing 3-4 times a week for 2-3 hours. The first 30 minutes of practice are usually dedicated to technical DJ skills. Specifically, I’ll work on DJ competition techniques such as word play, tone play, scratching, beat juggling and live mash-ups.
The technical aspect of DJing is an interesting way for me to express my individual style and it helps distinguish myself from other DJs. In that sense I would consider myself an artist as opposed to just a person who plays one song after another. I also spend a lot of time on YouTube searching for obscure pop culture references and ripping the audio to throw in my DJ sets. My sample library includes wild loon calls, Gundam sound effects, Arnold Schwarzenegger vocals, comedy sketches, and iconic video game sounds. Some DJs use air horns; I use audio relics from the Internet.
What do you like most and least about Tokyo?
The best thing about Tokyo is the abundance of events going on in the city, be it dancing, live performances, festivals or art expos.
The disadvantage is some great events have difficulty standing out, which results in low attendance and high entrance fees.
What do you blow money on (i.e. what’s the fruit of all
your cheapo savings)?
I have some big plans. As I mentioned before I used to be a bamboo, and back in those days I was pretty good at photosynthesis, but since becoming a hominid, I can no longer convert sunlight to energy. So now I’m working to get back to my roots (pardon the pun) and I’m investing in a portable solar system (ed’s note: he’s serious). In summer 2015 I intend to do outdoor performances in Yoyogi Park, playing all sorts of dance music that will all be powered by our good friend the sun. Best of all it’ll be free! I look forward to meeting more people interested in dance music. I’m also an environmental advocate so if I raise peoples’ consciousness of renewable energy innovations that’s cool too.
What are your top three Tokyo cheapo tips?
The best things in life are free. So I’ll give you the heads up on everything free and related to dance music.
1. The man with the pulse on dance music
Like my Facebook page, Black Bamboo // 黒竹, I share some unique free dance music you probably haven’t heard before about once a week. I also share articles about dance music sub-cultures and music scenes.
2. Best places for dancing and drinks on a budget
– @Speak Easy’s ‘Couch Surfing Party’ in Otsuka, free entry. The party runs from 19:00-24:00 and there are different genres of music every week. Something for everyone.
– 2nd and 4th Saturday of month @Coins Bar, in Shibuya ‘The Break Down’.
Old school and new school hip hop, with my favourite DJ in the city Chase DNZ. 500 yen entrance and 320 yen drinks.
3. Where to find free dance music
Get on Soundcloud and Facebook and ‘like’ a bunch of artists and you’ll receive free music. Here are three unique record labels offering free music: Japan’s PC Music, Main Course and Soulection. Don’t sleep on those labels, they’re blowin’ up.
Do you have a website/social media account for people/stalkers who’d like to find out more about you?
Also, here’s one of my latest DJ sets: https://soundcloud.com/black-bamboo-dj/genre-bndr-summer-16
Obligatory End Bio
Black Bamboo is the self-proclaimed “most versatile DJ in Tokyo” – otherwise known as a club music ‘otaku’. Partygoers can expect to hear music inspired by summer house, urban hip hop, and Latin rhythms. You can expect ass-shaking, hip-swinging tracks that take over your body and make you move. Catch this cheapo DJ play every 3rd Friday at Speak Easy in Otsuka and anticipate his return to the popular monthly ‘Recognition – Rooftop Sunset BBQ’ parties restarting this spring.