I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Ryo Kawasaki -- Raisins

Some of us of a certain age might suddenly get that "Pepperidge Farm Remembers" sensation on reading the following.

I certainly remember when my father got us our first computer, the Vic-20 by Commodore in the beginning of the 1980s. Oh, the excitement of getting 3,583 bytes of power in a keyboard and loading up our favourite video arcade games through a dedicated Commodore tape recorder! But even then, my brother and I were probably very jealous of other friends who upgraded to the Commodore 64.

The games were more advanced and there was one interesting software tool called the Kawasaki Synthesizer which used discs to upload the program, and then the musically-minded among us could have its way with sound and images and fury...such as boogeying aliens from outer space! I never got the Kawasaki Synthesizer but I did get a Casio keyboard later on...which is still sitting somewhere fossilized in one of our closets.

Now, the fellow who came up with this tool didn't start out as a computer-programming geek. Actually, he was jazz fusion guitarist and composer Ryo Kawasaki(川崎燎)originally from Tokyo, and he came up with a ton of albums since the early 1970s. In fact, his Wikipedia file states that he was one of the pioneers of fusion.

One of those albums was his 1976 effort "Juice" and the lead track is "Raisins". It begins life sounding like another one of those really funky themes for a gritty New York-set movie. I'd say that I can almost feel those platform shoes hitting the hot pavement on a July day in the decade of disco when I listen to "Raisins". As the song goes along, though, the fusion and rock begin to percolate through as the jam session also comes into play. The YouTube page has a list of the musicians who were involved in the making of "Juice".

Looking through his Wikipedia profile, it looks like he lived quite the life in music and computers, and as for the latter pursuit, he spent all of the 1980s there in between his times as a musician. Kawasaki in his later years also worked with a number of Estonian musicians and contributed his expertise in that part of the world. I wouldn't mind getting to know more of his creations but unfortunately, I've read that he passed away only a few months ago in April at the age of 73 in his home in Estonia.


  1. Trippy fusion with hints of prog-rock thrown in for good measure. Definitely a keeper. Sad to hear about his passing. RIP

    I had a Commodore 64. Although I was never great at programming, I did learn how to make a few generic text-based games on there. Good times.

    1. Hi, Michael.

      I was horrible at programming even on the Vic. Never had much talent or patience for it. My high school computer class consisted of filling out dozens of bubble cards to perform the simplest of tasks.

      Yeah, it's too bad about Kawasaki but he has left a huge legacy through his albums and software.

  2. Hello J-Canuck,

    I have noticed that there seems to be this strange connection between Japan and Estonia. This is not something I noticed recently but over the decades. I was binge watching some Netflix shows and Japan Sinks (Nihon Chinbotsu) 2020 came up as a recommendation. So I watched it. One of the characters was a popular Japanese Youtuber who lives in Estonia.

    I've seen this trope(?) throughout Japanese entertainment, be it music, television, movie, books etc.

    Just curious...

    1. As am I, Chasing Showa. I'm not sure what the connection is either. I know that Japan and France have long had very cordial relations because they seem to love each other's cultures, but I don't what the deal is with Estonia.

      I knew a couple of twins in junior high school called the Saagis who were from Estonia. If I had kept any connection with them, I probably would have asked. :)

  3. Hello J-Canuck,

    Thanks for the quick reply. This may be something I may dig into depending on my available free time and mood.


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