Music / Concert Previews

Feel the Roots

by Vivian Morelli

Special To The Japan Times

What do you get when you mix prehistoric Jomon Period ruins and free-spirited, improvised percussion and rhythm? Jomon Trance, that’s what. A genre coined by global music group RaBiRaBi, it’s a sound that “blends the ancient and the future to create a new ceremonial space.”

If your chakra has started tingling then that should set the tone for the upcoming Feel the Roots festival in Aomori Prefecture, which features a handful of sound artists and art collectives. What makes this event stand out from other summer music festivals is its location: the Sannai-Maruyama site, home to the (fairly) recently discovered Jomon ruins. Rewind back to 1992, when excavations to survey a site for a planned baseball stadium revealed relics of the Jomon Period, which took place from around 14,000 BC until 300 BC.

Now designated as a World Heritage site, the spot hosts music and art, amid its long houses, pit-dwellings, and pillar-supported structures. Headliner RaBiRaBi promises a sound trip that exceeds borders, race, time and space, with notes collected from its past field recordings, traveling as far as Canada and South Korea to hone their sound.

Another performance to look forward to at Feel the Roots is by didgeridoo prodigy Goma, a hip-hop DJ who mastered the indigenous Australian wind instrument (he was the first non-Aboriginal player to win the Northern Land Council Prize at the 1998 Arnhemland Barunga Didgeridoo Competition). Goma will play alongside The Jungle Rhythm Section, who will be adding Afrobeats to the vibrations of the didgeridoo for a danceable stint.

Other noteworthy acts include Aomori locals indie-pop group The Earth Earth — released on the Seattle-based Jigsaw label — reminiscing of indie act The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, as well as an improvised performance by Kuniyuki Takahashi.

The festival extends its scope far beyond the music: don’t miss the light installation by Mirrorbowler, an art collective that creates a space of light and reflection using mirror balls, and a Jomon workshop comprising arts and crafts.

Expect a clean, hippie vibe and low environmental impact in harmony with the historical site, and a gathering for families and free spirits alike. Take off your shoes, hop on a train to the north, and unearth the mysteries of Jomon Trance.

Feel the Roots 2012 take place at the Sannai Murayama historical site in Aomori on Sep 8 (12 noon; entrance is free). For more information, visit the Roots