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Despair and Hope: A Dialogue Between Shing02 and Shin Kokawa in a Time of Shifting Values

2024.4.12

#MUSIC

Drummer and improvisational soloist Shin Kokawa has announced his second album under his solo name, “touch the subconscious,” marking approximately four years since his last release. Since departing from the band jizue in 2019, Kokawa has engaged in solo tours and activities at venues like kott, collaborating with numerous musicians he encountered along the way. The album features a diverse array of contributors, ranging from Seiichi Yamamoto and Yuji Katsui to GOMA, and even includes talents like Hayato Ishiwaka and Sara Wakuai, spanning generations and resulting in a truly alternative work centered around improvisational performances.

Among the participants on the album is rapper Shing02, whom Kokawa personally selected for this dialogue. Having collaborated during their time with jizue on songs like “Shinkuro” and “Wakusei,” they share a decade-long friendship. Shing02 holds a mentor-like role for Kokawa, a supportive figure akin to an elder brother. In this dialogue, they explore the themes behind “Kujira,” a piece crafted around the theme of “the human world as seen from the perspective of the natural world.” Kokawa also takes the opportunity to discuss with Shing02 the concerns and issues he encounters through his creative endeavors, reflecting on their current positions and perspectives.

Contemplating The Power of Music with Shing02 and Shin Kogawa

-First of all, could you tell us what kind of issues you are aware of now, and what you would like to discuss with Shing02 in this dialogue, in your solo and kotto activities over the past four years since leaving jizue?

Shin Kokawa: There are so many things I want to ask Shing02. I often think about the power of music, but I wonder, “How much power does music have over the world?” I often think about the power of music, but what do you think about “how much power does music have over the world?

Shin Kogawa
Born in Kyoto in 1984, Shin Kogawa began playing drums in junior high school. After his tenure as the drummer for jizue, he embarked on a solo career, undertaking solo tours in Southeast Asia and collaborating with domestic artists. In 2020, he produced and released his first solo album, “ANIMA,” featuring Shun Ishiwaka, Masanao Matsushita, and Kei Yamamoto. From 2021, he has been actively involved in a duo unit with didgeridoo player GOMA and the Kyoto experimental piano trio “kott.” In the same year, kott performed at the FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL 2023. In 2024, he released his second album, “touch the subconscious,” featuring a lineup of top-tier players.

Shing02: In layman’s terms, music, like food, is something you input. I think it is natural for the same person to have a different sound when the situation or environment changes.

Music, in particular, is invisible. Therefore, I think there is a great deal that is left to the listener’s imagination, and the listener’s emotional and lyrical aspects are managed, or in English, triggered.

Shing02
Born in Tokyo in 1975, Shing02 is an MC and musician. He spent his childhood not only in Japan but also in Tanzania and the UK. He started his career as an MC in Japan in 1996. His album “緑黄色人種 (Homo Caeruleus Cerinus)” released in 1999 became a long-standing hit, and in 2008, he released the album “歪曲 (Waikyoku).” While actively performing live in Japan, he has gained widespread acclaim for his global and independent perspective in his lyrics and versatile style.

Kokawa: Do you feel a little bit like “leading humanity” somewhere?

Shing02:I think that is too grand a theme, but there have been paintings, cartoons, and even animations, not just music, that have gained weight over time, even if the creators were not conscious of this when they were making them.

I think it is possible to find a common theme for all human beings by sharing this experience in any work. It could be hip-hop, dance music, clothes, food, or buildings. That’s how I see it.

-How do you feel about the power of music?

Kokawa: I have been making music without words for a long time, but I am very much influenced by the power of words, and there are many aspects of it that I envy. More than anything else, I have been guided by Shing02’s words, so when I think of his words, I wonder if my life and music are progressing like his words. It is a big indicator for me. I actually have some of Shing02’s lyrics engraved on my body.

-May I show them to you?

Kokugawa: This is “Luv (sic) pt2” and this one is “400. It has a bible-like meaning for me. “I will cut off the long ones. The stakes are high. Appeal through art!” I think I am doing this. When I asked myself if I was doing this, I thought I wasn’t doing enough with jizue, and that was one of the reasons why I left.

From “Luv (sic) pt2” <(Science Arts) * Faith / # of our Ethnic Race!

Shing02: I’m responsible for that…

Kokawa: I was thinking that would happen as we were talking [laughs].

Shing02: Well, life is all about timing, isn’t it? It is my belief that there is no need to respect harmony by killing yourself.

Kokawa: Yes, that’s true.

-While you strongly feel the power of words, your main battlefield is basically music without words, and I think there must be a dilemma there.

Kokawa: Yes, there is. To put it another way, I would like to sing if I could. But I am not a good singer, so I can’t do that. Instead, I find that putting my ideas on the drums is the most powerful way for me to express myself, so that’s what I do. Of course, there is a lot of energy that can only be expressed with drums.

However, there is also a sense that what I am doing now is becoming less and less necessary, or that I am being pushed to the outside. In the so-called white society, where people try to live their lives without making waves, I am not sure where I can go by refining this intensity of my work, so I would like to hear from Shing02. I would like to hear from Shing02. If you polish your individuality too much, you will end up in the minority. Have you ever worried about the gap between you and the rest of the world?

Shing02: I have lived abroad a lot since I was a child, and I have experienced being a minority there all my life, so it is a theme that is very close to my heart, but I don’t think it is a handicap if I live my life aware that I am a minority.

There are many people in the same situation as me. For example, Asians are really a minority in American society, but on a global level, there are more Asians than Asians. So, as you said before, I am the type of person who thinks that it is better not to worry too much about the gap between myself and the rest of society. I think it’s more about whether or not I am excited every day. What do you think?

Kokawa: It’s really resonating with me right now.

Shing02: In Japan, the most respectful thing to do is not to disturb the other person’s space or pace. I think this is really a uniquely Japanese feeling, and conversely, this feeling is not found in the United States. I personally happened to spend my adolescence in the U.S. and fell in love with hip-pop, and that’s how I got into hip-pop. I think that’s why I’m still in the US all the time.

*OMA is a four-piece hip-hop band based in Manchester that met in college in 2018 and performed together at the “Shing02 & OMA Live showcase” event held at Ebisu LIQUIDROOM in Tokyo on Saturday, March 9.

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