Friday, September 15, 2006

Aug 9 - Sep 5: Greenhouse

I always enjoy staying at the Greenhouse with Chris Case. It's in a beautiful peaceful valley, Chris is one of the most interesting people I know, and the place is set up with a view to cultivating creativity. And on the practical level it's a convenient place for me to stay while in Kanto but without gigs, in exchange for some work gardening and helping out with events.

On this Japan trip I had only the one concert between Aug 8 and Sep 5, so apart from that one trip into ShimoKitazawa for a gig with Taro Terahara and sarod player Baku Hirakawa, I was out in the Greenhouse with Chris. While there we had a few events, firstly the O-Bon Week gathering, secondly a private party for a Bob Dylan lover called Joker and his eccentric circle, and thirdly my own tabla workshop. The Greenhouse is a great place for events, private parties, rehearsals, workshops and time out from Tokyo, and is becoming the home-base for EthnoSuperLounge in Japan.

Chris Case was born in 1943 in England, spent most of his childhood in Boston before returning to UK in the early 60s which was to bring him into contact with all many of amazing people. (I hope Chris doesn't mind me giving this potted life story, but I'm sure it's interesting to a lot of folks.) Among stories he's shared with me are: living with Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett, organising the art exhibition where John Lennon met Yoko Ono (hence being responsible for the break-up of the Beatles), hitch-hiking across Europe and Asia to India in 1969, coming to Japan in the early 1970s, introducing Kenji Sakasegawa (now the senior tabla player in Japan) to Indian music, being an antiques dealer, DJing in Bali, taking an early interest in computers and the internet, and eventually winding up in the Greenhouse, meeting various personalities along the way including William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna. He's full of interesting stories, information, conspiracy theories and opinions yet at the same time happiest to step back and allow people to express their creativity in their own ways.

He organised a party during O-Bon Week (a Japanese festival week in honour of dead relatives), partly I think to take advantage of my arrival from Australia. I was supposed to bring other musicians to take part in the event, but unfortunately wasn't too successful in luring people away from Tokyo. Most of the time I was the only musician, jamming along with Chris' DJ sets. One jamming companion who turned up by luck after finding my website was Stefanko Iancu, half-Japanese, half-Romanian, recently based in New York and London. A great example of the multicultural times we live in, his project Dolomites Muzik brings together Gypsy music with Japanese Enka and pop melodies. He brought his accordion out and we had a nice jam with a keyboard player, Mumu.

Outside party times our daily routine would usually begin with a cup of coffee and an hour or two on the internet, followed in my case hopefully with a bit of tabla practice before we hit the garden (I weeded most of the property) or did some repair work in the old houses in the Greenhouse complex. After a hard day's work a visit to a local onsen (natural hot spring bath) was definitely in order, followed by dinner and some movie or documentary. Evening viewing included Terence McKenna speaking on "machine consciousness", Al Gore on global warming, and others on the "truth of 9-11" and the history behind privately-owned national reserve banks (those darned Rothschilds...).

We'd often be popping in and out of the office all day monitoring emails and blogs, and in my case finally getting around to restructuring my website. So during this month I did quite a bit of internet exploration. I set up my email program, Thunderbird to subscribe to the RSS feeds of some interesting blogs including Metafilter which brought up a lot of interesting stuff. Here are some of my highlights, all stuff which can be enjoyed in a minute or two (all via metafilter)

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