Toyama. 5th grade, maybe 6th. On the last day of school before the summer break, they handed out discounted movie tickets. Among the usual blockbusters and G-rated cartoon was a sure standout; the close-up of a boys eyes with the bold letters "AKIRA." Immediately drawn to the promotional tag "It has already begun, and it'll never stop" and without any knowledge of the film I went to see it by myself. The film, which would pave the way for the Japanimation craze along with The Ghost in the Shell (released seven years later), changed my life, like the comic Hinotori aka Pheonix by Osamu Tezuka a few years earlier did. Months, maybe an entire year later (it used to take a lot longer for any film to come out in home video then, let alone a commercial flop like this one) when it came out in VHS, I rented it from a shoddy 20/20 of the town over the hill, and made a copy for myself which I WORE THE FUCK OUT to the point that I had the entire 128min of dialog memorized.
The soundtrack to the film, Symphonic Suite AKIRA by Geinoh Yamashirogumi, was the very first CD I paid my own money (aka allowance) for; a diverse collection of "world fusion" which pre-dated Real World by Peter Gabriel. It had Buddhist chant mixed with drum solo, Bulgarian choir with synth pad, and the seemingly the center of it was Balinese music elements such as Gamelan, Jegog and Kecak. Once I learned where the mysterious sounds of detuned gongs and polyrhythmic ethnobeat came from, I looked for another recording of Balinese music and came across something simply titled "Bali: Gamelan and Kecak" recorded by David Lewinston which, just like the film and its soundtrack, I WORE THE FUCK OUT. Good thing it was a CD. I have to admit though, I didn't know quite how to process it. All I knew was some J-pop stuff like TM Network who might've toyed with kecak when they released Get Wild 89, way before I discovered King Crimson who borrowed heavily from Gamelan in the Discipline era, let alone knowing what polyrhythm was. That mystery was aive. It sounded ancient and futuristic at the same time. One thing I did understand, and this still to this day is the best part for me, is that I loved the driving groove and the manic energy.
Fast forward 14 years. California. Either I was looking for a percussion player for my original material or Cliff was looking for a sub bass player for the project called Alice in the Shadows, a Balinese-influenced shadow play set to the music of late 60s psychedelia led by the puppeteer Maria Bodman. On my first visit to Cliffs studio I see a few sets of Gamelan, and turns out Cliff and Maria worked on the recording of "Bali: Galeman and Kecak" in 1987 and my head explodes. I played guitar/bass on several productions of Alice over the few years through greater LA and even Arizona at one point, but somehow things slowed down. I went to catch them play straight Gamelan material on occasions, but eventually we fell out of touch. LA musicians ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Fast forward 14 years. If I'm visiting Ken and Mayumi in Jakarta, I HAVE to stretch out to Bali which I could never afford to. The more I research however, the more it seems to be a very popular destination for Australian surfers and Asian tourists and I become hesitant. Maybe a short trip to the island would suffice. Then a thought comes to my mind and I hit up Cliff online, which really is kinda rude for I have not been in touch with him for ages. He is kind enough to reply with the info that Maria is en route to Bali as we speak. I LOSE MY SHIT. Upon gettting in touch with her she tells me she is studying with one of the best Gander masters and can hook me up with a lesson with him. I CANT EVEN.
Fast forward 14 days. Sukawati, Bali. Upon reuniting with Maria and meeting Padak Wayan Sarga, I tell them the story mentioned above and Maria says that Cliff never told her that. Then she proceeds to disclose that Padak Sarga was in THAT recording from 1987. I SHIT MY PANTS. Sarga smiles and spits out his chewing tobacco.
It had already begun, and it might never stop.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. Currently travelblogging at #beatvagabond and working on new material.