Kiwi-Japanese folk fusion tours unlikeliest venues

Tokyo-based New Zealander Ben Kemp is currently taking his Kiwi-Japanese folk fusion on a 22-date tour of Japan that will mainly take in small towns in the northern parts of Japan at unlikely venues, including a former sake warehouse and on a stage where the famed butoh dancer Kazuo Ono once performed.

A documentary of the tour, “A Maori Musician Touring Japan,” directed by Kemp’s compatriot, filmmaker Ed Davis, will also be filmed and is slated for release in early 2007.

Kemp has been based in Japan for around five years, starting his music career busking on the streets of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo, where he met up with bassist Koyu Suzuki. The band’s lineup is completed by Mitsuru Ogata (flute) and Taro (percussion).

Kemp, who cites his influences as folk singer Tim Buckley and Edo Period master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, among others, describes the music on his two albums so far as “polyn-asian,” drawing upon both his Maori roots and also his experiences in Japan for inspiration.

Ben Kemp plays at Soki-tei in Kunitachi, Tokyo, on Aug. 20 (tickets must be reserved in advance). The tour then continues with dates in Miyagi (including the Jozenji-dori Jazz Festival in Sendai on Sept. 9), Iwate, Akita, Yamagata and Gunma prefectures before finishing up in Shinjuku, Tokyo, at Hijoguchi live house on Sept. 15.

To reserve tickets, please contact the venues directly. For the complete tour schedule, visit blog.livedoor.jp/benkemp_tour/