One on One: Towa Tei – Future Listening!

Towa Tei is not a native New Yorker.  He moved to the city from Japan to study graphic design in 1987. A musician by night, Tei met Supa DJ Dimitry and Lady Miss Kier during his first three years of living there. They went on to form Deee-Lite, a dance trio that released the classic 90’s dance track “Groove Is In The Heart” off the album World Clique which featured a verse from the then hot-new-rapper Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.  A couple years of partying later, “Jungle DJ Towa Tei” found himself back in Japan where he released his first solo LP Future Listening! in 1995.

Stream: Towa Tei – Technova

The obvious stand out track on this record is “Technova”, a track closely related to the shibuya-kei style of Japanese dance lounge music that emerged from Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district in the nineties. At the time, sampling was all the rage and different scenes around the world were developing their styles on the same gear. With jungle in London, and hip hop in NYC, this was the sound of Tokyo. The samples taken from sixties French and American pop, bossa nova, and jazz, tie “Technova” closely to the shibuya-kei genre, but it’s the distinct hip hop flow that sets this track apart from the rest of the scene, something he must have picked up from Q-Tip in New York City. A definite classic golden era hip hop alignment can be heard in how the samples have been incorporated into this track, from the subtle piano melody and break loop for the beat, as well as the sample from spoken word track “Fonky Thang” by The Dells (also later sampled by Yeezus himself). But it’s the Japanese sung chorus and space-jazz atmosphere that still keeps the futuristic vibes going strong today. If that chorus sounds familiar to you, it’s because A Tribe Called Quest flipped it on “Find A Way” a couple of years later. Speaking of flipping samples, you can hear a sample of the moon landing on “Technova” (sorry Daft Punk, Towa hit it first!) and in true dance-fashion, Towa dubbed his own tune into an epic two-part sample mecca titled “Dubnova parts 1 and 2.” Peep the too-90s-to-be-true video and album cover below and enjoy!

Stream: Towa Tei – Dubnova (Part 1 & 2)

Joe Linden


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