They Are Afrirampo
Oliver Hall encounters Osaka’s number one freedom paradise rock duo.
Originally published with photography and design by W.T. Nelson in Arthur No. 18 [available from The Arthur Store for $5.00 postpaid]
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.