J-funkin' your Saturday afternoon

Zainichi Funk, whose name means everyday funk or funk everyday, is a great funk band with a distinctly Japanese flair. It all starts with front man Kenta Hamano and his style of funking. As oppose to last night’s headlining funk band, New Mastersounds, who play a discrete style of funk, there’s nothing discrete or subtle about Zainichi Funk.

Hamano and his band of brothers adopt the 70’s American, classic funk sound, image and style, then add a Japanese twist. The focus of the band is on their large, booming brass section and their front man Hamano, who sings, dances and jokes his way through the set. The band is fairly new, making a name for themselves just a few years ago.

Being a big fan of funk and living here in Japan I cant help compare them to one of my favorite Japanese funk groups, Osaka Monaurail. The big difference is while Osaka Monaurail strives for, and I would argue achieves, a great level of authenticity in both their original songs and their covers, Zainichi Funk takes a more relaxed approach. Instead of trying to master English to nail covers or call and response phrases perfectly, Hamano attempted to get by in English only to give up and continue his banter in Japanese and occasionally broken English.

Most of the classic funk staples are there in the live show, fancy colored suits for the band, sexy dance moves and grunts of joy from Hamano, then the individual funky solos from the band as the set progresses. What gives the band a distinct Japanese flair is the extra Japanese elements added within the American funk genre.

Zainichi funk combine elements of Enka, Japanese folk songs and even famous TV theme songs like that of beloved Japanese character, Tora-san. What this does is ease the access to the genre for the average Japanese music fan. While all the classic funk numbers may not be ingrained into Japanese culture for casual listeners, when Zainichi combines the classic 70’s funk vibe with tunes and ballads that are firmly ingrained in Japanese psyche it creates something new and welcomes a new type of fan.

So while the afternoon White Stage crowd wasn’t totally on board with Zainichi Funk at the beginning, by the end of the set they were won over. With Hamano leading a call and response about Pokemon and Ninjas, I think it’s fair to say his words reached everyone in the audience, while the band had the skill to keep the curious shaking and grooving until the last note.

Text by James Mallion Posted on 2016.7.23 16:29