Category Archives: Music

Up & Down the Ki’ – Two Extracts from Deep Kyoto: Walks by Michael Lambe

This month we have two extracts from Deep Kyoto: Walks. Both are from my own piece on a musical tour of Kiyamachi bars conducted by my good friends Mark (Max) Dodds and Ryotaro Sudo in late November last year. On Saturday November 29th 2014 Max and Ryotaro will again perform this tour for the tenth and final time, so a couple of short excerpts from my account seemed timely. In the following passage we have reached Tadg’s bar, and the musicians and the audience are all having a splendid time when suddenly a song of Max’s induces a mood of wistful reverie…


Two extracts from Up & Down the Ki’
A Musical Tour of Kiyamachi & Pontocho with Mark Dodds & Ryotaro Sudo

…There are a small group playing Irish music as the rest of our party arrives and Max and I, in honour of our roots, dance a little faux jig as they play. Max manages to persuade the fiddle player Peter Damashek to join himself, Ryotaro and four members of another local band, Dodo, who are due to join them for a full band experience: one fiddle, two guitars, an accordion, bass and two percussionists. This is going to be good.

The magnificent seven raise their glasses in a mutual toast and then play for us a spirited set that is one of the highlights of the night, starting appropriately with a Pogues number before moving onto Max’s originals. Everyone is dancing now, and laughing, the musicians are smiling as they play and Tadg himself happily taking pictures is absolutely beaming. I suddenly feel rather moved at the scene before me, for it doesn’t feel like a show as such but a big family gathering. And then they play Max’s “Glory Be”. I absolutely adore this song: on the surface it is a toast to a loving relationship that has yet outlasted life’s trials and turmoils and with that in mind, I feel a pang for my own girl Miu, remembering that time we swayed to this song together just a year ago.

Babe you know who I am
Without needing to understand
I am just a grain of sand…

As the day winds down the night winds up
And we will share a loving cup
Of the sacramental wine

Tonight though, there’s something else, I feel like the song is also a serenade to this old town and the people in it and that the band is raising a loving cup to us all.

Every soul will be delivered
Somewhere up or down this deep, dark river
Every drop of rain, every grain of sand…

And so another memorable night at Tadg’s draws to a close, and Lawrence and I head over to Urbanguild ahead of the others, as Lawrence says, “to get the pints in”…

In this second extract we have now reached Urbanguild and things are about to get wild!

…It’s well after eleven for we are running late and whatever performances Urbanguild had tonight have now finished, but the audience and performers are unaware that Max and Ryotaro are about to treat them to some indoor busking. Back in Tadg’s, Ryotaro was talking about “having a rest” and playing a few quiet songs outside by the elevator. But they don’t do that. And they don’t set up their gear on the stage either, but in the middle of the floor between the wooden benches. As the onlookers gather round in a smiling but curious half-circle, our rebel rockers commence to play. Lawrence pulls out a harmonica and joins them in his shy way, diffidently floating round the edges. He clearly hasn’t got enough pints in yet. But Max has, or he’s simply high on the music, hunched over his guitar and leaning into the mic, singing “Stone Cold Blind!” with a passion. As for Ryotaro, he is on fire, strutting about, teasing his audience with wild flourishes of the accordion bellows. The musicians are clearly enjoying themselves and their enthusiasm is infectious as the audience responds with appreciative whoops and cheers. This is the second high point of the night. And as they replay Circus of the Sun, the song takes on a new tone, and the blessed freedom they sing of seems both proud and ecstatic…

Text, photograph and second video by Michael Lambe. Glory Be video by John Wells. Original song lyrics by Mark Dodds. To read the rest of this story, download our book here: Deep Kyoto:Walks.

To follow the tRace elements musical tour of Kiyamachi one last time click here: The 10th & Final Kiyamachi Tour.

DeepKyoto-cover-0423-finalAbout Deep Kyoto: Walks

Deep Kyoto: Walks is an independently produced anthology of meditative strolls, rambles, hikes and ambles around Japan’s ancient capital. All of the writers and artists involved in this project have lived and worked in Kyoto for many years and know it intimately. The book is in part a literary tribute to the city that they love and in part a tribute to the art of walking for its own sake.

About-Michael-Lambe-256x300About Michael Lambe
Michael Lambe is from Middlesbrough in the North East of England. He moved to Japan in 1997 and has lived, worked and studied in Fukushima, Saitama, Tokyo and Kyoto. He has been writing the Deep Kyoto blog since 2007 and doing odd jobs for Kyoto Journal since 2009. He is the Chief Editor of the Deep Kyoto: Walks anthology and has written articles for Japan Today, Morning Calm, and Simple Things magazine.


To learn more about Deep Kyoto: Walks please check the following links:
About the Book

tRace elements – “Up & Down the Ki” – The 10th & Final Kiyamachi Tour

One night, ten bars, and a whole lot of foot-tapping tunes.

On Saturday  November 29th 2014, Max and Ryotaro will return to Kiyamachi as tRace elements for their tenth and final ten bar musical tour. Last year I followed the busking bravos from dusk till dawn and found myself caught up in a wonderful festive spirit of camaraderie and convivial good cheer. Join the tour at any spot on the following schedule and prepare yourself for some great music and magical memories:

17:45 ~ 18:15 Street Live (in front of school)

18:30~19:05 ING with HAKO (075-255-5087)

19:15~19:45 BAR【Lowo=Tar=Voga】075-251-2810

20:00~20:40 Tadg’s Gastro Pub 075-213-0214

21:00~21:40 Agave 075-254-7605

22:00~22:40 Jam House 075-351-9715

23:00~23:40 booze k 075-251-6763

24:00~24:40 UrBANGUILD 075-212-1125 with the Dodo Ensemble

25:00~25:40 八文字屋 (HACHIMONJIYA) 075-256-1731

26:00~26:40 Alphabet Ave. 075-251-0069 with YungTsubotaj

27:00~27:40 うさぎ(USAGI) 075-351-6093 with friends~

There’s no charge for entry to this event but please buy at least one drink in any of the bars you enter.

Video and Images from last year’s tour here: Kiyamachi Tour Highlights
A more detailed record of last year’s tour can be read in the ebook Deep Kyoto: Walks.

Pictures from Kyonadian Music & Max’s Surprise Birthday Party

Aika & Max

Aika & Max

Here are some pictures from a very special evening of Canadian music at Urbanguild last Sunday.


Canadian Sunset

First up were Christopher Fryman and Akira Fukuma as “Canadian Sunset“. The duo serenaded us with a selection of old time ballads and love songs. As Christopher tenderly crooned, the music had us all swaying and put us in a fine romantic mood.

Mike Barr & Max Dodds

Mike Barr & Max Dodds

At this stage Max, quite innocently, still hadn’t figured out that a surprise was waiting for him. It wasn’t until later during his own performance that he commented on the high number of friends and family that had appeared for this occasion…


The next act to appear was Colin Garvey, a talented singer and guitar player who made much use of a looping device during his performance…



Ingenious though the many layers of looped sound were, I found it a bit busy. Less is more for me I’m afraid as I far preferred the songs he played with just the clean sound of his voice and his guitar. And is it just me or does Colin Garvey sound a bit like vintage Lloyd Cole?

(I mean that as a compliment)

And finally…!




Max, Dodo and Ryotaro gave a classic performance of Max Dodd’s originals. It was truly one of those nights that get marked down as special memories.




And though Max seemed to have already sniffed out the surprise that was coming, he did look very moved that so many people had come out to wish him well…


Well, done Aika for organizing such a great surprise party!

Here are the boys in action with Christopher Fryman on trumpet…

To learn more about the musicians, check out these links:
Canadian Sunset, Colin Garvey, ryotaro, Dodo, Mark Dodds (Max).

Brilliant Irish Music on a Rainy Day at Eiun-in

It was a cold wet day in Kyoto yesterday, but if you look hard enough you can always find some brightness, whether in a friendly smile or happy tune. Mewby and I braved the weather to attend a wonderful show at Eiun-in, a lovely little sub-temple deep in Kurodani. As we arrived the rain stopped and we could enjoy the scent of fresh autumnal air coming in off the garden. Irish musicians Niamh Ní Charra & Sean Whelan were performing, and it was an absolute joy to watch them. Sean’s guitar playing is immaculate, and Niamh, who plays both concertina and fiddle, regaled us with songs sung in Irish and stories about them. It may seem odd that a song can move you even when you can’t understand the words, but perhaps even more so when the words have no meaning to begin with! In one song, Niamh had us all join in with a chorus of Irish mouth-music: rhythmical but meaningless lyrics that employ the voice purely as an instrument. It was a gentle tune and there was something very touching about a room full of strangers all singing along together.

the rain lifts briefly
and grace drifts from Eiun-in…
Irish tongues lilting

Niamh also has a mischievous streak though. Here’s a crowd-selfie that she took just before the show started. If you look carefully between Sean and Niamh’s heads you can see Mewby and me right in the middle!

This picture by Niamh Ní Charra. Click to view her original tweet!

This picture by Niamh Ní Charra. Click to view her original tweet!

Altogether it was an absolutely brilliant show. I’m just sad they only played once in Kyoto,  but hopefully they’ll be back. Niamh and Sean are very fine musicians who clearly enjoy playing together, and I pray that in the not too distant future they bring out a CD together – because I want one!

Here’s a final picture of  Niamh Ní Charra and Sean Whelan playing a rousing encore with local musicians Hatao and Nami.

To sample some of the music for yourself please visit the following websites:

Kyonadian Music @ Urbanguild, Kyoto – Sunday November 9th

With apologies to Max and friends for the late posting.
This going to be an excellent night!

11.9 (Sunday) Kyonadian Music

Mark Dodds with the Dodo Ensemble & ryotaro
Canadian Sunset (Christopher Fryman – Vocal/Trumpet + Akira Fukuma – Guitar)
Colin Garvey

Doors open: 18:00 / Show starts: 18:30
Advance tickets: 2000 yen with 1drink /Tickets on the door: 2400 yen with 1drink

Canadian Musicians それぞれの音楽を楽しむ夜
Three musicians/bands and their worlds.

Location: From Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori. This is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream. Urbanguild is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo). Walk approximately 150 metres. Its on the 3rd floor of the New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here’s a map.
See more information:

Scottish Day in Kyoto – November 8th & 9th 2014

Thanks to Toshiyuki Nakano for letting me know about this upcoming celebration of Scottish culture. Though as it takes place over a weekend, perhaps they should have called it “Scottish Days”?

Lots of music, food and drink (in particular Black Isle organic beer) are promised. For a list of participating bars and eateries click here. You can also preview some of the musical acts on the event’s Facebook page.

Scottish Day in KYOTO

Saturday November 8th from 11:00 – 20:00
Sunday November 9th from 11:00 – 19:00
Food and drink sales will cease one hour prior to the event’s closing.

Place: Moto-Rissei Shogakko (元・立誠小学校グラウンド) on the west side of Kiyamachi, about mid-way between Shijo and Sanjo. Here is a MAP.

Drink tickets are for four drinks + a Black Isle Beer glass.
Tickets bought in advance:¥2,000 Tickets bought on the day: ¥2,500
Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased from participating establishments or via the event homepage or Facebook page.
Food should be bought separately.
Event Homepage:
Facebook page:

See also: Horie’s Bar

Irish Concert at Kurodani’s Eiun-in, with Niamh Ní Charra & Sean Whelan x Hatao & Nami

Irish music fans, of which there are more than a few in Kyoto, should take note. Irish musicians Niamh Ní Charra & Sean Whelan will be joining local duo, Hatao & Nami, for a show at Eiun-in on Sunday, November 9th. Details below!

Irish November Concert
Irish November Concert in 京都
~From Ireland & Japan, Two Duets~

Date: Sunday, November 9th 2014
Doors Open: 14:00
Show Starts: 14:30 Continue reading

Pictures from Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt


I am now officially a fan of Ensō Watt! Last Friday’s performance was excellent and I enjoyed every minute of it. With musicians posted in various corners of Urbanguild, and Yannick Paget both conducting and performing with hypnotic percussion from the center, we were fully immersed in a landscape of sound. Simultaneously the live video art of Andy Couzens and Masato Tokumaru cast images upon the walls while poet Chris Mosdell cast images in our minds. I really was quite lost in it all, and am looking forward to their next Winter performance. Long live Ensō Watt!


Samuel André (Soundscape, Field recording)


Ryotaro (Accordion & effects)


Chris Mosdell (lyricist/poet) gave a stirring reading…


Yuki Nakagawa (Cello & effects)

IMG_6961 (Medium)

Taisuke Enami (piano & synth effect)


Yannick Paget (conductor, composer and percussionist)





For more details on this performance please refer to the previous post: Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt
Follow Ensō Watt on Facebook or on their website here:

REBELDOM 31st EDITION 〜尊芯塾 × DAM (from Palestine) @ Club Metro

This event at Club Metro on Thursday October 9th features the award-winning Slingshot Hip Hop film, a short discussion about current conditions in Gaza & the West Bank, and a rocking live performance by DAM, Palestine’s first and foremost hiphop group.
RebeldomDate: Thursday October 9th 2014
Part 1

19:00: Doors Open
19:30 Movie: Slingshot Hip Hop
21:00 -21:30: Discussion

Part 2
REBEL SOUNDS:DAM (from Palestine) / RITTO (from 琉球) / 志人 / STINKY SCIZA (BONG BROS.) / DR.HASEGAWA
/ DJ PLANT (尊芯塾)

Tickets for Part 1 OR Part 2: 2000 yen for advance tickets / 2500 yen on the door
Tickets for Part 1 AND Part 2: 3000 yen
All tickets include one drink.
Order advance tickets here: ticket[at]
Access: Club Metro sits beside the Kamo river on Kawabata Dori, below cafe etw and above Marutamachi Station. Take Exit 2 from the station to find it. Here is a map:
Check this page for details:

Rebeldom reverse

Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt – Mixed Media Experimental Event @ UrbanGuild; October 10th

Well, this looks like something…

ensō Watt Sanka’s Autmn Ritual from PollenRec on Vimeo.

Thanks to Marguerite Paget for sending the following information:

Kyoto Experiment Fringe program 2014 presents the artist collective: Ensō Watt at UrbanGuild from 7.30 pm, October 10th

Initiated in 2014 by the sound designer Samuel André, the Ensō Watt artist collective is born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound design.

For Kyoto Experiment Fringe program 2014, Ensō Watt ensemble

A hundred years after Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rites of Spring,” the members of this artistic collaboration pursues the experience-cum-experiment by focusing on Japan’s seasonal cycles, especially celebrated by the little-known mountainous tribe, the Sanka.

SANKA, can be translated from Japanese by “Mountain Cave” or “the one who
come down the mountain”. They are a mysterious, some say magical group of
people, who retreated, wandering in small bands through the mountainous regions of Honshu when the rice farmers arrived from the Asian continent in the third century. The Sanka are sometimes called the Japanese Gypsies. Little is known of their history. Although they are mentioned in Japanese chronicles from the 11th century, much of the information about them is vague.“Being a secluded community their cultural development grew far outside the social framework of the rest of the country. They developed their own language
based on natural sounds ie: the hum of the cicada, and their daily lives became dominated by rituals and esoteric rites.” Chris Mosdell

For SANKA’S AUTUMN RITUAL, Ensō Watt celebrates, autumn season in three acts. The music is inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell; it navigates between improvisation and conducted improvisation live by Yannick Paget, based on scored music’s elements. The performers, positioned in the audience, generate an immersive, musical surround-experience (broadcast on 4 speakers). More than just a musical experiment, the event is also shot live via a series of 6 cameras, and is processed and projected on 2 screens during the performance.

The exploration of the season’s cycle started this summer with the SANKA’S
SUMMER RITUAL (2014 July 18th at Urban Guild) :
Act I : rites of dragon fly, driving the dream machine. Act II, rites of the hundred
wind chimes, rites to refresh the earth, rites of the great fire dance. Act III the insect « hum » of humanity ritual, dance of the sacred peach.

Ensō Watt will conclude the cycle next year with winter and spring. A cycle that is meant to continue through years…

Why Ensō Watt ?
Ensō: 円相, in Zen Buddhism, an ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). It is characterised by a minimalism born of Japanese aesthetics.

えんそう (演奏) means also in Japanese: concert or performance

Watt: reflects the electric energy impulsed by the musicians and the artists of this collective.

Ensō Watt is a space of experiment and overture where frontiers between
musics, classical, electro or sound design melt, where scored music meets
improvisation, where arts (music, image and poetry) enters a free dialogue, where the melting pot of culture is a strength. And so what? with this unique spirit breathed by Kyoto city everything’s possible, isn’t it?

Ensō Watt collective’s members are:
Samuel André (Soundscape, Field recording),
Yannick Paget (classical music conductor, composer and percussionist),
Taisuke Enami (piano & synth effect),
Yuki Nakagawa (Cello & effects),
Ryotaro (Accordion & effects)
Chris Mosdell (lyricist/poet),
Andy Couzens ( live vidéo),
Masato Tokumaru (live vidéo)
Hirisha Metha (Sanka’s Symbols Design)

For more information:
Press contact: Marguerite Paget: mgtpaget[at] / 090 6556 1974
Event coordination: Samuel André: sandre.constellation[at]