Whether it's an annual soapbox derby or sending a man to the edge of space just because they can, energy-drink manufacturers Red Bull have never been afraid to throw their cash at projects that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) — the brand's foray into the world of electronic music, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year — leans firmly toward the former. As the name suggests, it aims to provide an "education" for promising musicians, flying in established names to share advice as well as providing fully stocked studio spaces for participants to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other.

The 2011 edition of the academy was supposed to take place in Tokyo, but was relocated to Madrid following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March of that year. This year's event takes place in New York City. It began April 28 and ends May 31. Nonetheless, ties between Japan and the academy have remained strong, with beat-makers Yosi Horikawa and Daisuke Tanabe among the graduates from this country to have benefited from the program. This year, Japan will be represented by Tokyo resident Nic Liu (who records both under his own name as well as his "Pleasure Cruiser" alias), still relatively fresh to the capital after spells in Britain; and Sendai-born Emufucka, who takes his stage name from an imaginative phonetic reshuffling of his real name, Takafumi Sakurai (try reading it backward). That both men were inspired to apply after attending previous RBMA lectures — Moodymann in Liu's case, Daddy Kev in Sakurai's — would itself seem to be an endorsement of RBMA's ability to encourage up-and-coming musicians.

"When I got the e-mail through I just jumped out of bed and shouted, 'Yeaaaah!' " Liu says. "I was screaming in my bedroom, my housemates were wondering what was going on."