Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gospel from a Strange Flower who Grows Stubbornly

In October 2009, Zai went to Tokyo to attend Asian Meeting Festival, a sound art event organised by Otomo Yoshihide, whom Zai got to know back in 1994 during Flying Circus Project (TheatreWorks, Singapore). I remembered that both of them told me that they fought badly during that project, but
interestingly it was also because of the fight that they began to respect and like each other. The last I saw of Otomo was when he came to Singapore with Dickson Dee to work with Zai on Book from Hell in 2008.

Asian Meeting Festival saw the gathering of about 20 artists from Asia and it was held in both Asakusa Asahi Art Centre (Tokyo) and Tokuzo (Nagoya).  Apart from playing a 20 minute solo set for each concert, Zai was also given the opportunity to collaborate and improvise with several fine musicians such as Yoshinori Tanagawa on guitar, Usui Yashuhiro on saxophone, Ko Ishikawa on tradition Japanese Sho, and Otomo on guitar and turn table.

Asahi Art Centre, Asakusa, Tokyo

Tokuzo, Nagoya


As usual, when Zai travels, he is hardly contactable; He doesn't carry a phone and wants to be free from the internet. The first email he sent to onistudio was already after he had finished four gigs in Tokyo and was performing in Nagoya. He said that one night in his dreams, he saw a cactus walking towards the
sea and as it went further and further, it transformed into a whale and swam away. Thus during his trip to Nagoya in the bullet train, he pondered on the dream and some new materials that he had discovered in Tokyo. That was when the words came to his mind. This was what he wrote,

"i am playing under a `tittle` - 'strange flower grow stubornly' and `stubborn flower grow strangely`. its my new work/piece. im excited. tomorow i got to go back to tokyo to do some recording which im glad to."

As I read these two titles, a myriad of images ran through my mind, one of the most vivid being the pitcher plant and a parasitic plant called the Dopper. Strange flower... Stubborn flower... I started to wonder, "am I a strange flower who grow stubbornly, or a stubborn flower who grow strangely?" And I wondered that about the people around me too.

So, with the help of Otomo, Zai went to one of the most legendary underground studio (GOKstudio) to record his material. The recording was done by Kondo Yoshiyaki, who was also the sound engineer for Book from Hell and one of the most respected and wanted man in Tokyo underground scene.

Kondo at GOKstudio
Some of us may probably remember that Zai used to say "I'm still alive and active performing, what's the point having my CD? Come to my gig!' But things have changed, mind has changed, and even if he had to eat his own words, Zai had for the first time attempted studio recording and true to his care-less nature which some people grew to love and some grew to hate, it was a one-take affair with no onverdubbing. According to Zai, he grew tired (and embarrassed) when he was asked for a collection of his stuff. He thought making a  collection which is professionally recorded, mastered and produced might make some good friends happy and thus get it for someone's birthday or a nice-to-meet-you gift. One thing for sure, he has to now learn how to travel with 300 CDs in his luggage.

"You can consider me a traditional musician partly because I believe that real musicians are those who play musical instrument and sing their own songs; never mind if you so sucked up by what you got in the States or Europe."

Armed with three hours of live recording of the gigs and not including the above mentioned material,  onistudio thus decided to release a CD compilation titled Gospel from A Strange Flower who Grow
Stubbornly. The word 'gospel' coming from Kondoh san, who classified the recording under that when he was saving the tracks.

When Zai returned to Singapore, he excitedly played the songs and let me into this new world. I remembered I was toasting some sandwiches to eat, but I had to put down whatever I was doing and just listened. Quite frankly speaking, the experience was like being struck repeatedly on the head, which made it impossible to multi-task while listening, like we usually do to easy-listening or ambient music. And ever since our friend Shah Tahir did some magic on the mastering a month ago, this pastor sounded even more polished, or should I say, rough? Like a gospel, you will love it or hate it, but either way, it is good for you. Haha!

Shortly after Zai returned, Kai Lam and Lee Wen invited him and Amino Acid Orchestra (together with Fuzz Lee and Shark Fung) to play at Rooted-In-The-Ephemeral-Speak, or R.I.T.E.S on Boxing Day. Other invited artists were Dennis Tan and Goh Lee Kwang.

mindfucking boy (on floor), shark fung, dennis tan, goh lee kwang

If you were there, you would have remembered the hot-bloodedness in the room, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Reminiscing that enjoyable and wonderful night at Post-Museum, onistudio will be launching 'Gospel from a Strange Flower who Grow Stubbornly' with Shark and Goh Lee Kwang (who is travelling from Ipoh to Singapore especially for this occasion). To top if off, Mindfuckingboy will also be playing. So put on your crazy hat and ear plugs for the night, it would be necessary.

photo credit: rumi zai

Date: 26th March (Friday)   ;   Time: 8pm  ;   Venue: Blackhole, 212 Syed Alwi Road
Entry: $8 + CD: $12    ;   Advance Booking $16 Free Entry + CD

Please write to onistudio at for advance booking. We cannot promise that it will be a mind-blowing, eyes-widening, hair-standing, and chest-tightening experience, but like all onistudio events, you will leave with your blood feeling as warm as good old wine.

See you my friends!

upcoming post: Zai tours Japan with Amino Acid Orchestra in May, kicking it off by a long awaited performance with one of his best friends, Tetsu Saitoh (contra-bass), and African dancer Jacki Job, and ending it by a performance with legendary underground and experimental sound artists Otomo Yoshihide and Keji Haino. In April, onistudio  present a most unpredictable individual - Gertjan Zhuilhof - who has produced 100 sketches on all kinds of draft paper in the past one year. which he calls 'auto-cartoon'. Stay tuned.


Blogger topgear said...

nice recording.
reminds me of Keiji Jaino a bit.. or Damo Suzuki. I'm just grabbing at Japanese straws cos of where it was recorded.

joking aside.. I do like it, really.

thanks for sharing.. and thanks to Zai.

Simon Petre

10:17 AM, April 03, 2010  
Blogger Images of desire said...

Hello Zai,

do you still have your studio at Wessex Estate ?


Frances Alleblas.

12:35 AM, January 12, 2011  
Anonymous onistudio said...

hi frances, zai's email is if you wish to contact him.

5:17 PM, January 12, 2011  

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