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I Forget He’s Not Alive

I often find I need to correct myself about Tokona. You see, the problem is, I forget that he’s dead. I always first think ‘he is’, ‘he does’, ‘his performances are’. I don’t seem to be accepting that he’s no longer with us and often think about ‘what makes him such a great performer’, rather than what made him such a great performer.

I think it’s partly because Japan is a world away. With other dead rappers like the Notorious B.I.G, Tupac or Big Pun, there’s no forgetting because of how high profile they are in English speaking Hip-Hop culture. There are also a horde of other rappers that constantly mention them. This isn’t the case (or I’m not aware of it being the case) with Japanese Hip-Hop culture and Tokona-X, so I don’t get that constant reminder.

While there are a lack of reminders (for me at least), in my own small world, it is his music that keeps him alive. Recording a voice and digitising it now means that even once the person in the recording has passed away, their voice is preserved perfectly. I can hear every breath he took throughout his songs and see how he acted in videos. This is the same as even living artists that I haven’t and may never be able to see in real life, so without those constant reminders, I find it easy to forget that he’s not around any more.

I often forget Tokona is no longer with us, mostly because of the what he left behind. The most important thing to remember is that if we can do good work on this earth, it will live on after our death. As the 10th anniversary of his passing approaches, I wonder what will happen to mark the occasion in Japan? I’m sure I’m not the only person in the UK that remembers him, but I can’t see there being any events happening here. In Japan, I hope there will be parties and club events in Nagoya at least. No doubt, there must be thousands of fans and artists alike in Japan who still have fond memories of him.

If you know of any events or are organising any, please let me know in the comments. Japanese is also okay.

Understanding his Lyrics Through the English Translation

When I went away to Japan, I could only understood basic things in Japanese. After my four years living there, I still can only understand basic things. When I left England, I stopped listening to the music I’d enjoyed in England; the most I’d done was try to rap along at Karaoke, but I soon stopped that! On my return, I had a listen again to those same tracks, but with a new perspective. Naturally, I started to think about the lyrics of Tokona’s album Tokai X Teio. I wondered about the deeper meanings I was missing and how long it would take me to uncover them.

Listening again to the music I had (not just Tokona, but other artists) was a very interesting feeling. I could now understand the odd word and if I concentrated, I could get some real meaning from parts of some tracks. As was the case before I went to Japan, I could follow the Japanese lyrics while listening, even if I couldn’t understand. I used to just follow using the Hiragana between words, but now, I could read some of the Kanji also. I guess those hours singing karaoke (pop and enka, not rap!) are paying off at last?

The version of Tokona’s album that I have came with an English translation of his lyrics. I thought I’d like to read the translations serval times, so to keep the lyrics in good condition, I made a copy of them to refer to later. I didn’t make a copy of the Japanese; probably because I had no hope of understanding them at that time. For a while, I couldn’t remember where I’d put them, but I had another look recently and managed to find them hidden away in a plastic wallet in one of my draws.

I was really excited about finding them after such a long time searching, so I decided to listen to Tokai X Teio again straight away. It made me feel happy that I was able to follow it with the English lyrics. Those English translations were especially helpful for me to understand the Japanese words he was using. The difference being that after living in Japan, I now had an idea of the words and sentences in Japanese that matched the English. As I followed along with the lyrics, I could now understand the words he’d use in Japanese to say “I was born and grown up in Yokohama” (Where’s My Hood At?) and see that the translation was right; although I might have worded it differently. I could also hear that the translation “Can I take two please” (二つバカ頂戴) (Dirty Go Around) is not very accurate at all! Because I now had a more concrete idea of what he was saying from my experience of speaking Japanese.

Even though I have a translation, it will still be good to do a translation for myself; especially as I know that there are inaccuracies. There are certain points that I think could have been translated better and other places where lines haven’t been translated (presumably because they’re quite impolite). The translated lyrics will make a good guide for me to work on and help me to make unassisted translations better. I look forward to finding some hidden gems in Tokona’s lyrics and sharing my discoveries with you all.

10th Anniversary Year

The coming year will be the 10th since Tokona-X left the world without showing us everything he could do. I expect there will be some special events in Nagoya to mark the occasion. I’ll be on the look out for anything scheduled and be sure to write about it here.

It’s now my job to make sure I do my best to get his name out there and work known to a bigger audience. I’m going to use this milestone as motivation to do the best work I can and make 2014 a great year for T-X.

Hopefully you’ll be along for the ride and enjoy it every bit as much as I enjoy his music. Let’s prepare to say goodbye to 2013 and hello 2014, starting it as we mean to go on.