Dommune goes outside for summer

by Mark Jarnes

Special To The Japan Times

Naohiro Ukawa, creator of live-streaming microclub Dommune, is pulling out all the stops this weekend with Freedommune 0 (Zero) in aid of victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, when he takes the studio outdoors for a full day and night of dance music.

Manning the decks will be techno pioneers Jeff Mills, Stewart Walker and Gabriel Ananda. The event will also play host to a star-studded Japanese lineup including The Beatniks, Tetsuya Komuro, Towa Tei, Ken Ishii, Altz, DJ Nobu and Ukawa’s long-time friend, Moodman. Living legend Isao Tomita, one of the pioneers of electronic music through the use of synthesizers back in the 1960s, will also be making a special appearance, in a performance likely to be as much a learning experience for music buffs as it is simply entertaining. The Japan Times catches up with Ukawa in the days leading up to the big bash.

How long was it after the earthquake that you decided to organize the festival?

Actually it has been in the works for a long time. The idea to create a free festival was formed back in the Mixrooffice (Ukawa’s venue before Dommune) days around three years ago, and we had already received the recommendation from Kawasaki City. And then there was the quake. Dommune started up again on March 13 with Larry Heard and Moodman, and since then we have accumulated ¥7,973,240 in donations through our broadcasts. This festival is a progression of the regular transmissions, creating a studio that, instead of holding the usual 50-person capacity, will become a huge 10,000-person Dommune to show our strong support for the restoration of Tohoku.

Ten thousand people! That’s a pretty big jump from 50.

Even now, people in Fukushima can’t see the exit, and radiation scares afflict the east of Japan. It’s not Fukushima’s problem, it’s Japan’s problem. It’s obvious, but Fukushima is Japan and, as Japanese people, working to support the future of the country is a matter of course. This is a problem for all of Japan, making it personal. If your family fell on hard times, how could you just let them be? That’s pretty much how I feel now.

There have been a lot of overseas artists canceling their Japan gigs since March. Has that affected Dommune and the organizing process of the upcoming festival?

Before the quake we had DJs coming in from all over the world, especially from Europe, and after the situation in Fukushima was raised to threat level 7, the cancellations began coming in. We were in a pretty tough spot for a while, as were many of Japan’s other club-music promoters. However, the DJs that showed the most support and came at this time were the Detroit DJs, with Derrick May at the top of the list.

It seems you have a lot of new ideas. What’s your ongoing motivation?

Dommune is a place where we promote real-time art, not modern art. Each program is its own work, and I trace my personality onto each piece. (Spiritual teacher) George Ivanovich Gurdjieff believed one should meet people who attention should be given to. Through our broadcasts at Dommune, we can transmit this concept. Perhaps my motivation is my continuing belief in art itself.

Freedommune 0 (Zero) takes place at Higahi Ogishima Park, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Aug. 19 from 3 p.m. until 6 a.m. on Aug. 20. Tickets are sold out, however you can watch the festival via the Internet. For more information, visit www.dommune.com/freedommunezero.