Ed Cunningham |January 12 2022
January 12 2022
Dive into some of the musical influences and other interests of city pop compiler, curator and expert DJ Notoya.
Until Japan truly embraces music streaming, much of city pop’s (read a brief guide to city pop here) heyday remains somewhat impenetrable to many international listeners. While YouTube and physical releases are, of course, one way of finding out about the legions of AOR, boogie, funk, soul and disco artists that thrived in the aspiratory wealth of Japan’s 1970s and ‘80s, neither are particularly accessible to the average, casual listener.
So how does one go about unearthing city pop’s lesser-known artists? One way is through compilations. The likes of Light in the Attic’s two Pacific Breeze releases, for instance, have shown that there’s a significant audience for works that unearth and remaster city pop classics. Each release is filled with tremendous pop songs, but they’re also important in that they make another batch of previously-under-admired classics more accessible to an enormous audience.
DJ Notoya is well-established as an expert compiler and curator of city pop tunes. In December, the Tokyo-based tastemaker released Tokyo Glow, a comp of that attempts to introduce international audiences to more difficult-to-find (and thus lesser-appreciated) tracks from city pop stalwarts like Hiroshi Sato, Hatsumi Shibata, Hitomi ‘Penny’ Tohyama, and Midori Hara.
The 18 tracks of Tokyo Glow all lean heavily into boogie, funk, disco, with a focus on, according to Notoya, “the slightly more underground tracks from the era, rather than the bigger, well-known releases.” It’s a thrilling mix; the compilation’s breadth and variety showing just how malleable the confines of city pop can be.
In the wake of Tokyo Glow, we caught up with DJ Notoya to nail down some of his musical history and all-time favourites, as well as his non-musical interests.
Listen to Tokyo Glow on Spotify here.
In 6th grade, I purchased a copy of Golden Best by Yosui Inoue.
“Lovin’ It” by Little Brother; I was an enormous hip hop enthusiast in my school days, and this song really got me into old soul music because it sampled The Stylistics’ “One Night Affair”.
“Nureta jōnetsu” by Hatsumi Shibata. It was probably in my first year at the university, my friends were having a party in a small club, and one of our senpai played it in his set. It felt like I was struck by lightning because I had never known that such an incredible track existed in Japan. Shortly after, I became groove crazy. I started searching for old Japanese music with a solid groove. I’m really happy that we also managed to include a Hatsumi Shibata track on Tokyo Glow. Her music is essential!
It's hard to pick one, but if I must choose, it would be my first gig in Beijing in 2019. I played Japanese music exclusively, and I was ecstatic to see people having fun and dancing to the songs even though they most likely had no clue what they were singing about.
Knot in Ikebukuro – the owner of Knot is super nice, and it’s the place where I DJ’d in front of people for the first time. You’ll hear all flavors of music played there, from hip hop, soul, Latin, and reggae to house, trance, etc.
Free Guy; I absolutely loved it.
It varies from time to time, although If I have to pick a recent(ish) movie, it would be Get Out – traumatically good.
Author: Ed Cunningham
Artist Tags: DJ Notoya
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