Friday, 8 August 2008

Denpa, not denpa? When rabid fans collide

Here in North America, it's pretty "common" to label artists like MOSAIC.WAV, UNDER17 and IOSYS as denpa musicians. I never really thought that the denpa label could hold negative connotations, especially since み~こ likes to drop lyrics such as 「Welcome to DEMPA world!」 [sic] in 2005's "SPACE! WAVE! AKIBA-POP!" or 「みんな~~! 電波びんびーーん!?」 in 2004's "We Love AKIBA-POP!!". So it's fair game to assume that the label also holds in Japan, despite a plethora of other applicable terms such as Akiba-Pop, electropop, gamewave, etc.

But much like the term "hentai" was twisted around and appropriated by outsiders, there's always a possibility that "denpa" is perhaps not the best way to refer to MOSAIC.WAV's music. This has always been in the back of my mind, despite my decision to go ahead and name this blog in honor of the genre. My fears were confirmed recently when a Japanese fan contacted me about a number of topics, one of which being the liberal use of "denpa" on my blog.

DENPA NO SEKAI でこれを言うのは変かもしれませんが、MOSAIC.WAVは「DENPAソング」ではないと思っています。歌詞も曲も緻密に計算されていて、極めてメッセージ性が強いからです。彼らの作品は様式としてはDENPAソングそのものですが、それ自体が計算された演出であるため、表現の本質はDENPAとはまるで逆なのです。

Basically, "even though your website is named Denpa no Sekai, MOSAIC.WAV don't write denpa songs". I agree with him when he says that their style, lyrics and music is "precisely calculated and extremely complex", but then he states that such elements are the complete opposite of the essence of denpa. Basically that they're too good to be identified with the lowly denpa label. This message confused me highly, so I wrote back asking for more precisions. I told him that in North America (and anywhere outside of Japan, really) this new genre is relatively unknown and that we possibly use the label wrongfully, but with good intentions. Of course, if I'm propagating wrong information about my favorite sound unit, I want to correct the situation. Here's what he wrote back with.


Bottom-line? It's OK to refer to MOSAIC.WAV as denpa musicians. However in Japan, the term means more than just a musical genre. While it originally was used for "radio waves", it can also be used to describe unintelligible thoughts, semantic obscurity and being plain old crazy-in-the-head. Previously, the genre could be likened to the "Outsider Art" category, especially when you consider the oldest denpa songs which had no message and purpose outside of the eroge realm. But MOSAIC.WAV stirred up a storm with their multiple fictional characters and purposely ironic throwback riffs and song structures, meaning that they can no longer be considered "just" denpa artists.


He urges me, as a non-Japanese purveyor of MOSAIC.WAV news, to illustrate the distinction between standard denpa music and what the band has been releasing. As you can tell, he holds them in incredibly high esteem, as can be expected by a Japanese fan who's likely seen them live multiple times and owns every single thing they put out. Overall this was a good conversation that spanned multiple emails, even though at first I was afraid we were way off with the denpa label. We both agreed on the fact that they have evolved far beyond the simple premise of the genre and are pushing the style to a whole new level, where they currently throne unchallenged.

1 comment:

My Triumph said...

Well, we westerners always misuse Japanese terms to a degree, the best example being "Otaku". Today we can say that a sense of pride, but for them, that's a shameful term. But anyway, thanks for the info!