This week’s featured musical artist is Komuso Tokugawa, whose work defies easy categorization. His style has evolved over many years of studying music to the molecular level and is also deeply informed by his travels and different cultures.
(Photo Courtesy of Komuso Tokugawa)
Q: When and how did you discover Second Life?
A: In 2005 I was in Australia researching game based learning and heard about SL. At the time they didn't allow international signups. Eventually they opened it up and I signed up. I quickly discovered there were a handful of musicians live streaming into SL and that sounded interesting (literally!) so I got to work (with the help of some great SL collaborators) and started jamming too. There are a few of those original musicians still jamming in SL too!
Q: You describe your music as Bitstream Boogie and Bluestronica. For those not familiar with these terms, could you please describe them?
A: I have a lot of musical interests, and I like doing mashups of different genres to create new hybrid musical genres to go with my experiments into new sounds and instruments. Bitstream Boogie I'd describe as a mix of groove-based Mississippi Hill country blues blended with world music roots rhythms and sonic experimentation around a core of blues tone. Bluestronica is a mix of electronica grooves with electric blues. I've also done a lot of ambient music work.
Q: What drew you to these genres? Any albums you would suggest?
A: Great question! If I had to describe my style in a short sentence I’d say it’s all about Groove, Tone, and Story. The groove is the heartbeat of the song, the tone is the emotion expressed through instruments/voice, and the story is the composition and arrangement flow that takes the listener on a journey. Any music that has those three elements captures my mind, body, and spirit.
There are so many great influences but to pick a few:
-Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder - Talking Timbuktu
-Morcheeba - Who can you Trust?
-Younger Brother: A Flock of Bleeps
-Atomic Skunk & Bluetech - anything by them
-The Blues Roots: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Hound Dog Taylor, Etta James, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and so many more.
Q: What instruments do you play, and how did you start playing music?
I sing and play slide guitar mainly (with a dose of finger style and pick), harmonica (mainly in a rack), Shakuhachi, and electronics of different types via different control interfaces. I developed a dynamically controlled AI rhythm section as backing for playing online in SL.
My parents had an extensive record collection so I grew up listening to a lot of jazz and big band music. Then one night I was trawling the airwaves on my radio (a device we had back pre-internet days) and out of the static came this sound I'd never heard before - the crying sound of a blues harmonica and it captivated me with the emotion. I'd found the weekly blues show from a university radio station, and I was off on a musical discovery journey.
I'm mainly self taught but I've since done a music master’s degree. My experience being a self taught musician has also been behind my development of music education apps like https://harpninja.com/. I'm currently in the alpha testing stage of a new web app I'm developing to help musicians practice more efficiently and effectively.
Q: Your music draws from musical styles found all over the world. How did you learn about these?
A: A big part of it was the uni radio station I mentioned before, they had specialist shows of different genres you never typically heard: African, folk, world music, etc. When I went to uni there I volunteered for graveyard announcer shifts and spent them exploring their eclectic album library. Since then I've lived all over the world (now in Tokyo) and have explored many musical cultures.
Q: What aspects of the SL music community are the most meaningful to you?
A: SL music has always been the "killer app" of SL to me due to its effectiveness in bringing diverse people together to create long term virtual relationships through the high bandwidth emotional channel of live music.
-Venue owners like Dr. John Kane, owner of Dr. John's Music Park (and also a great musician!), where I've been performing a weekly gig every Friday night since 2013. There's been a bunch of other great venue owners and promoters over the years (RIP Circe Broom).
-Real time music jams/collaborations with other musicians, like fellow SL musicians Hathead Rickenbacker, Noma Falta, and others. An example of one real time networked live music event in a custom juke joint set I made, filmed by the late great SL Machinima artist Osprey Therian (RIP).
-The audience relationships. I'm forever grateful to anyone who's willing to listen to my musical experiments, and happy it can help soothe their soul. It's as much musical therapy for me as it is for the audience. Many of them are long-time SL'ers who I've never met in real life but we come together via SL to have a high touch emotional connection experience via live music.
-One of my audience wrote this about me which I think describes my style best: “Komuso Tokugawa’s approach to the blues is unique. The rough-around-the-edges sound is often described as ‘dirty’, ‘grungy’ or ‘alternative.’ Highly experimental, Komuso takes influences from world music and wraps them around the emotionally charged blues core to create his sound.”
Please check out his music below!