Avant-Garde Japanese Band Delivers Powerful Soundtrack For Canadian Choreographer
By Alan Itakura
Group A is an avant-garde band that is usually slotted into the noise music category. It provided the heart-thumping musical score for Dana Gingras’ performance of “anOther” at Agora de la Danse recently. I interviewed the two members of Group A, Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic, while they were in Montreal. Before they met each other, both Tommi and Sayaka spent a number of years in London, England so they both speak English quite fluently — and with a British accent to boot!
Tommi’s focus was graphic design and when she decided to head to London at nineteen claimed she had no English speaking ability. As she put it, “we studied English for fifteen years in school but there was never anyone to practise with.” Tommi’s reasons for leaving Japan were quite clear-cut: “I just wanted to be anywhere but not Tokyo, not Japan. Since I was little, I hated to be in Japan. I probably hated to be Japanese as well. Somehow, since I was really little I figured out Japan wasn’t my country and I wouldn’t fit anywhere, I kind of wanted to just quit high school and go anywhere. I was into punk music and 60s mod culture like Carnaby Street as well as fashion, especially British fashion like Vivienne Westwood.”
Sayaka’s move was to study textile design at the University of the Arts in London for four years. She explained her motivation: “I was really into the arts and crafts movement from England. So I decided to study textile design in London. Weaving, and knitting as well. And then I worked for some of the fashion labels.” When I suggested to her that Japan had a long tradition of textile design and many non-Japanese would love to study in Japan, she gave me her reasons for not doing so: “When I was in high school I was going to study textiles in Kyoto because you can learn some really nice techniques of weaving. But when I was seventeen or eighteen, I said to myself, I don’t want to be in Japan, I want to go somewhere where I don’t understand the language. Once when I was on a train, I was sitting and I started feeling so tired about the environment I lived in. You can understand what everyone is talking about on a train — the random conversations they are having like I had such and such at lunch or something like that and I suddenly thought to myself, I don’t want to know everything. So I started researching where I could study textiles or fashion design — like London or Milan. I found that you can’t get a good scholarship or monetary support in Milan, but at the University of the Arts London, I got an offer of financial support as an international student. So that’s what I proposed to my mom I and she said: yeah why not?”