Artists of post-war Japan were driven to articulate that Japanese culture remained strong & their subconscious was void of any Western influence. The mania of rock’n’roll throughout Western society was shunned by Japan’s underground composers & artists in pursuit of sustaining their own identity. In some circumstances it was their religious beliefs; Otaka Prize winner Toshiro Mayuzumi described his composition ‘Mandala Symphony’ as “expressing a Japanese Buddhists view of the omnipotent universe”.
The two decades that follow provide a fascinating, and at times, almost incestuous flow chart of influential artists from the modern era; John Cage, Yoko Ono, Toshi Ichiyanagi (Ono’s ex husband) & Takehisa Kosugi.
Kosugi was the founder of Group Ongaku, a collective of musicians playing improvised compositions & performance pieces which draw correlations to the Fluxus movement.
The group was officially named just before “Dance and Music: Their Improvisational Conjunction” performance at Chiya Kuni Dance Institute, May 8th 1960. The pairing of Kosugi & violinist Yasunao Tone during the groups existence proved to be an impeccable match; Kosugi’s interpretation of Tone’s ‘Anagram for Strings’ was a “.. bilious ever-descending spiral ski slope into the Underworld”
In 1963 Kosugi decided to leave Group Ongaku to focus on experimental music research. It was that decision which led him to score & record for a new cartoon series, Tetsuwan Atom (Atom Boy). Six years later Kosugi & six other, considerably younger, musicians formed the Taj Mahal Travellers.
“Taj Mahal Travellers played the music of a divine emanation of those moments we all have late at night when, exhausted after a hard day’s work but too tired to crawl up to bed, our barely conscious minds – chronically searching out meaning as all humans are programmed to do – perceive the wind outside, the familiar whirl of the fridge’s electric motor, and the awkward grind of the cranky and still-contracting central-heating pipes as they shut down for the night, but – from our low, low point of consciousness – register the overall sound not as a collection of accidental noises but as something heavenly, something regal, something with intention behind it.” – Julian Cope
The band played mainly acoustic instruments including tympani, bass tuba, mandolin, harmonica, trumpet and santur. An array of hand-made instruments; voices, stones, bamboo winds’ and tree branches were used along with the electric violin, electric double bass & a Mini Korg analogue synthesiser.