After over a decade in the music scene, Kawabe Taigen, performing under the name Ill Japonia, has finally issued his first solo collection, titled Ill. This five-track EP is also the first original release by British label Eastern Margins, a collective focused on organizing shows for London’s East and South-East Asian diaspora communities.
On Ill, Kawabe blends his interest in trap with years of genre-hopping. Kawabe is perhaps best known as the frontman and bassist of Bo Ningen—a similarly unclassifiable act that draws broadly from acid rock, noise rock, and psychedelia. However, his past experimentation has seen him work with collaborators ranging from experimental electronic artist Foodman to psychedelic rock group Mainliner.
早期 Kawabe Taigen 最为人熟知的身份是 Bo Ningen 乐队的主唱和贝斯手，乐队风格深受酸式摇滚、噪音摇滚和迷幻音乐影响，很难被归类为特定的流派。从实验电子音乐人 Foodman 到迷幻摇滚乐队 Mainliner，他都曾与他们进行过音乐上的 “交手”。而在单曲《Ill》中，Taigen 将自己的偏好转向了 Trap 音乐，尝试与多年涉猎的各种音乐流派相融合。
This diverse background gives Kawabe a unique entrance point into his explorations of trap. Signature elements of the genre emerge on each track, but trap acts more as a common thread than a dominant feature, leaving room to display a larger fabric of ideas. As Kawabe says, he is “not new” as a musician, and he’s by no means trying to obscure his history or diverse sonic interests by blindly replicating what he hears from the trap scene. “I’ve got different backgrounds, different roots,” he says. “So the way I make music is different from the usual trap, which I sometimes think is a struggle that’s also my strength.” Trap seems less like the foundation of the project and more like a reference point, or a lens through which Kawabe is peering to see what he can learn about his relationships with music, with the world around him, and ultimately with himself.
多元化的背景为 Taigen 提供了 Trap 音乐的独特入口。专辑中每首曲目都有独特个性，而 Trap 更像是一条贯穿其中的线索，为歌曲的构思留出更多空间。正如 Taigen 所说，他已经不是初出茅庐的音乐人，他决不会盲目地复制自己所听到的 Trap 音乐，不希望掩盖多元化的胃口。他说：“我来自不同的音乐背景，有不同的文化根源。所以我在音乐的创作方式上不同于一般的 Trap 音乐，有时我觉得这既是一种障碍，也是我的优势。” 与其说 Trap 音乐是这张单曲的根基，不如说为他的音乐提供参考价值。在 Taigen 的镜头下，他审视自己与音乐、乃至世界的关系，或者从根本上讲，是他与自己的一场联系。
Listen to some of our favorite tracks from Ill Japonia below:
点击即可试听 Ill Japonia 的几首精选歌曲:
Indeed, Kawabe’s particular relationship to trap seems as much an exercise in the spiritual as the sonic. Though he acknowledges that typical trap lyrics are often about what he calls “teenager goals”, he finds the genre’s energy and bluntness to be refreshing. Adults often criticize young people for never thinking about the future, he says, but he finds it invigorating to hear artists ten years his junior rap about what he calls “the now.” The mindset he grew up with in Japan, by contrast, emphasized the importance of working hard now for long-term gain that could be enjoyed in ten or twenty years’ time. “I do still believe this,” he says thoughtfully. “I grew up with those kinds of thoughts. But now I feel that now is the most important moment, and it’s the healthiest way to think about the past and future.”
Taigen 与 Trap 音乐的联系不仅存在于声音，也存在于精神层面。他认为典型的 Trap 音乐通常都在讲述 “少年野心” 的话题，这种音乐流派拥有令人耳目一新的能量和直率。成年人总是说年轻人不懂得为将来打算，但他发现，这些比他年轻十岁的歌手以 “当下” 为主题的说唱更令人振奋。由于自小在日本长大，传统的观念下他总是认为现在要努力工作，才能在十年或二十年后享受生活。“我仍然相信这一点。”他若有所思地说，“我自小就被灌输了这样的想法，但现在我越来越觉得 ‘当下’ 才是最重要的，这也是思考过去和未来最好的方式。”
Kawabe initially learned about this focus on the present through reading about trap artists’ improvisational workflow. “They’re in the studio for one day and the rapper just writes lyrics as the producer makes the beat,” he marvels. “They make five or six songs per day, and finish everything in a day. They focus more on impact than hook or structure.” As Ill Japonia, Kawabe tries to keep some of this creative agility, saying that he uses a different part of his brain than with Bo Ningen. With the band, the process is much more methodical. “We bring ideas to the studio and jam, discuss between each song, come to a decision, go play the songs live to find out audience reaction, then build up the songs in response,” he says. “It takes a really long time before we do the actual recordings.”
在 Taigen 了解到 Trap 音乐即兴的创作流程之后，他开始关注 ‘当下’ 的含义。“他们能在录音室里呆一整天，制作人一边创作伴奏，说唱歌手一边填词儿。”他惊奇地说道，“他们每天可以制作五、六首歌，一天内就能全部搞定。他们更关注音乐的冲击力，而不会在歌曲的 “钩子”（hook，乐句）或结构上过分纠结。”切换到 Ill Japonia 的身份后，Taigen 试图保留这种创作的灵活性，用不同于 Bo Ningen 乐队时的方式进行创作，因为乐队的创作过程会更系统化。“我们把想法带到工作室，一起练习、讨论，做好决定后，到现场表演歌曲，看看观众的反应，然后相应地修改歌曲。”他说，“所以往往要经过很长一段时间，最后才去录音。”
On Ill, though, he approaches the recording like a one-man jam session, building his beats from the ground up and freestyle rapping as he goes. He finished the lyrics for most of the tracks in the space of a couple hours, and the first basic takes were done within a day, though he took longer to fine-tune them afterward. The lyrics are full of personal musings on growing older, learning from younger artists, looking for answers, and finding peace. “Touring through Japan, people would talk to me more about my lyrics after Ill Japonia shows,” Kawabe says, clearly gratified. “They’d ask how I see a line, and tell me what lines resonate with them.”
Yet even as Kawabe explores the communicative power of rap, he’s also pushing at its lyrical limits. Where others freestyle rapping in a recording session might have stumbled over a rhythm, or paused at the end of an idea, Kawabe instead steamrolled forward, mashing together syllables and words that sounded good together, whether Japanese, English, or a language of his own invention. Between takes, he listened back to the recordings and directly transcribed the resulting mix of intelligible, partially intelligible, and totally unintelligible lyrics. Sometimes he even tried to “turn off his brain” and intentionally mishear the recordings, writing down entirely different lyrics in the process. The final product is playful yet sincere, echoing his journey to both harness rap’s liberating energy and reflect on his life.
整张《Ill》的录制，就像是 Taigen 一个人的即兴演奏，伴奏配合着信手拈来的即兴说唱。短短几个小时，他就填写完专辑大部分歌曲的歌词，一天就过掉了录音的初步流程，当然后期也花了一些时间修改调整。歌词讲述了很多他个人对于年龄增长、向年轻音乐人学习、寻找答案和如何获得平和的内心这些问题的思考。“在日本进行的 Ill Japonia 巡回演出时，人们会更多地和我讨论里面的歌词。”Taigen 欣然说道，“他们会问我对某句歌词的看法，告诉我哪句歌词让他们产生共鸣。”
在探索说唱互动性力量的同时，Taigen 也不断在歌词的边界行疆阔斧。在录制过程中，他不像其他人会因节奏或没有灵感的状况下暂停，而是爆发出一鼓作气的冲劲儿，他将所有听起来不错的音节和单词混在一起，其中参杂着日语、英语还是他自己发明的语言。每次录制之前，他都会反复回放之前的录音，将他能够理解、部分理解和完全无法理解的歌词直接写下来。有时，他甚至尝试 “关掉大脑”，故意 “听错” 录音，写下截然不同的歌词。最终完成了既有趣又诚恳的音乐，即保留了说唱音乐的能量，同时又是自己生活的真实写照。
The first and last tracks stitch together his lyrical and musical exercises with poise. The opener, “Sauna Mizuburo,” is a track that draws an analogy between music and the feeling of plunging into the mizuburo, the cold pool at a Japanese sauna. “Listening to and playing music are a kind of detox, a purification,” Kawabe explains. Fittingly, the track ends with an anecdote about some friends telling him that he looks the same onstage as he does in the mizuburo. On the closing track, “Lounge Muzak,” he reflects on the concept of kakugo, which he describes as a mix of a sense of awareness and determination. “I wanted to make music because I wanted to find answers,” he says.
Thus, as much as the music on his first EP is about positive energy, purification, and simplicity, this final track reveals that it’s also an extension of his goal of living life with kakugo, and using music as the vehicle to do so. No wonder Kawabe Taigen’s search has led him through so many musical styles. “Now, at 33, I can say that I can be anything and I can study anything, that now is the most important moment.”
专辑中首尾两首歌曲自然而然地将 Taigen 在歌词和旋律上的探索串联起来。第一首歌《Sauna Mizuburo》通过音乐演绎出跳入日本桑拿房冷池水 “水风吕”（mizuburo）一般的感受。“不管是听歌、还是放歌，对我来说都有一种排毒、净化的作用。” 他解释道。很巧的是，他的朋友曾说，Taigen 在舞台上看起来真的像在水风吕里一样自在。结尾曲目《Lounge Muzak》讲述了他对 “觉悟”（kakugo）这个概念的思考，并将其描述为意识和决心的结合。“做音乐是因为我想通过音乐找到答案。”他说。
Taigen 在首张 EP 中表达着正面、纯净和简单的主题，同时也在最后一首曲目中表明，带着“觉悟”（kakugo）地生活是他的人生目标之一，而音乐则是载体。难怪 Kawabe Taigen 在自己的音乐探索中涉猎了如此丰富的音乐风格。“现在，33 岁的我可以成为任何人，我可以学任何事物，‘当下’ 才是最重要的时刻。”