Originally published with photography and design by W.T. Nelson in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)
They Are Afrirampo
Oliver Hall encounters Osaka’s number one freedom paradise rock duo.
When Oni and Pikachu arrived at the Smell in downtown Los Angeles there was nothing about them that suggested the powers they would soon deploy on stage. Certain performers have a way of carrying themselves in venues that tells you not to approach them unless you have something important to say about the sound system or how many drink tickets they get, and Afrirampo, despite looking road-weary, and dressed down in floral prints with naked faces, held themselves with that kind of authority. Not that it stopped (male) fans from approaching the two, or the band from receiving them graciously. But they did not look like the creatures you’d expect to see after reading any of their press: sex demons, noise futurists, musical athletes, punk sibyls who, when asked for their favorite three albums of all time responded, “1. AFRIRAMPO 2.AFRIRAMPO 3. AFRIRAMPO”. . .
Here is the description of Afrirampo on the band’s website:
young Japanese girls rock duo from Osaka JAPAN!
Naked rock!!!!! Naked soul!!! Red red strong red dress!! Freeeeeeeeedam
paradice rock! Jump! With improvisation.
Sooo fantastic & wild performance!
Afrirampo’s recording career began with A (not to be confused with A’, presumably to be read “A-prime,” a collection of early recordings), a shrieking garage-thrash record with guitar, drums and two girl voices; if the music on this record has any antecedents, it’s the startling moments of weirdness and the playful, conspiratorial spirit of the ealry ‘80s Swiss female punk band Kleenex/LiLiPUT, who, like Afrirampo, enjoyed letting music wreak havoc with familiar vowels. Afrirampo’s latest release, Kore Ga Mayaku Da on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records, is similarly playful but more elaborate and scary, like classical theater. I interviewed them around the corner from the Smell, before they were in costume and makeup; a little over an hour later, their set came to a close with the crowd bearing Pikachu from the stage to the front door as Oni took over the drums and sang Sayonara! Sayonara!
My intention was to interview Afrirampo at the bar behind the Smell on Main, but as we turned from Harlem Alley onto Third Street, Oni exclaimed, “Japanese food!” They had identified something that would relieve their homesickness: a plain burger restaurant with a marquee-style menu behind the counter, sparsely decorated with objects whose strangeness I wouldn’t have noticed if Oni had not been so taken with them.
“I like frogs,” she said, pointing to the giant ceramic vase in the shape of two frogs on the counter. There were plastic pieces of fruit spread out like a rebus on the shelves in one wall and a painting of two ballerinas in a dance studio hung opposite.
“Looks like Japanese,” said Pikachu.
“European,” said Oni. They seem to contradict each other often in conversation in this breezy way, just as one of them will suddenly, frighteningly take over a song in the middle of a performance. When I asked them how music in Japan, especially in their hometown Osaka, is different from music in America, Pikachu frowned, “It’s the same!” “Very different,” said Oni. “Especially in Osaka, like underground scene? Noise? Strong, and also more deep, especially in Osaka, for now. Interesting, more than America.”
Oni seems to love the words “strong” and “deep,” referring, for example, to Keiji Haino, Acid Mothers Temple and the older generation of out Japanese musicians they’ve played with as “deep, deep, crazy old guys.” Despite these connections, Afrirampo does not see itself as a noise band. When I tried to argue that American noise aesthetics have more in common with Japanese noise’s love of pure sound than the conceptual abstractions of European, industrial noise, they seemed to think I am calling them a noise band.
“Not only noise music,” said Oni.
“Actually, not noise music,” said Pikachu.
“Strange music,” said Ono.
“I want to know more about strange music of America,” said Pikachu.
Here I asked them a pretentious question about their views on America’s political situation, but thankfully neither of them recognized the word “politics.” They had made a salutary proposal for the commonwealth in their SF Burning e-mail interview last year, when Pikachu suggested President Bush “should play the drums or live in AFRICA with pygmy.” Taking what William S. Burroughs liked to call a broad, general view of the situation, Oni elaborated: “Fucked UP!!”
“I really like American people, but I really don’t like American government,” Oni said in the restaurant. “So it’s really weird, and I’m so sad because American people so nice that I met this time, before. . . really friendly, active. But, yeah, the government’s so bad. People have so much energy. American people have so much energy, so if the government changed more. . . peaceful, or better. . . more more more nice country.”
According to Arthur art director W. T. Nelson, who unlike me has been to Japan, the rough analogy that Manchester is to London as Osaka is to Tokyo holds. Osaka, Oni said, is “smaller than Tokyo—Tokyo is really business, but Osaka more small and [has a] more deep community. So I think we make a lot of strange music.
“We used to have a party, free session jam party in Osaka. Castle Park, three years ago, in summer, every month, once in a month. It’s really…freedom [laughs]. And now we cannot do it because now it’s a problem. The police came: Oh, don’t do it. In Japan it’s really hard to play music outside. So we cannot do it right now, but the party was like in the park, at night, all night, and many strangers came to the party, and it was just like noise music… [laughs] so drunk! But it was so good party.”
Pikachu mimed beating a stone with a stick and said, “One guy only hit stone, two hour, three hour. . . only make noise by stone. So free.”
“Strange” music tends to be oddly male-dominated. I asked Afrirampo if there were other women musicians they play with who were making the same kind of music.
“Lately, Yoko Ono,” said Oni, as casually as if I had asked her what time it might be. I had not realized that, at the most recent All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, curated by Vincent “Four More Years” Gallo, Afrirampo had performed with Ono, “a real monkey,” which they mean as a compliment.
“So amazing,” Oni said. “You know she’s almost 70 years old? I cannot believe it. She was like FLASH!”
A cell phone at the table behind us rang, playing a theme from The Barber of Seville, and the three of us sang merrily along, swinging our arms back and forth like a glad crew of sailors.
Later, back at the Smell, Afrirampo took the stage in brilliant white dresses, full makeup and matching plastic rings with flashing lights inside. It was that rare, thrilling thing that happens when a band plays brave and dangerous music nailed down with precise rhythm, climbing up the ropes with muscles and unwavering purpose, carrying you along a highwire from beat to beat.
Don’t look down.
Addendum, via Afrirampo website and other sources….
Dear.ALL AFRIRAMPO’s FRIENDS ☆ !!!
AFRIRAMPO will finish on June 2010 after this tour.
We really really appreciated for our all fans, friends,
families, all people who love us for this 8 years .
We always have been supported by everyone!
THANK YOU SOOOOOOOO MUCH !!!
We will go back to our each planet
We are really sure to finish afrirampo NOW.
We feel it is necessary .
We want to grow up more and more and cleaning our each planet!
We want to keep to play when we really want to play together.
This is FINISH TO START!!!
We are so exciting for new our future!!
If our mother of monster say “PLAY!PLAY!together!!”, then we will play!
PLEASE ENJOY OUR NEW ALBUM “WE ARE UCHU NO KO” !!!!!!
RED RED ROCK NAKED SOUL FOEVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR IN UNIVERSE!!!!!!!!!☆
WE LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU ALWAYS!!!!!!!!!!
THANK YOU SOSOSOSOSOSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH AGAIN!!!!
ONI PIKA AFRIRAMPO
We will play UST live fainal afrirampo show on japan time 6/26 2010 19:00~ maybe for 3 ~4 house.
ONI PIKA We are very very happy !Thank you so much !☆！☆！☆ HONMA NI ARIGATOU !!!
ALL NEED IS LOVE
AFRIRAMPO miracule lucky girls☆ONI and PIKA