NPR logo From Japan to L.A. in a Matter of Minutes

From Japan to L.A. in a Matter of Minutes


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Bennie K mixes the flavors of L.A. and Osaka. hide caption

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  • Song: "Osaga"
  • Artist: Bennie K
  • CD: Japana-rhythm
  • Genre: Pop

Japanese pop music, or "J-Pop," often brings to mind doe-eyed, wispy-voiced pop princesses, but that isn't the reality: The realm of Japanese pop music isn't a monarchy of sweetness, but rather an oligarchy of talented and diverse acts. Among them is Bennie K, the duo of vocalist Yuki and MC Cico, who met in Los Angeles, discovered the world of American hip-hop, and spawned a fruitful partnership.

One of the most multifaceted tracks on the recent Japana-rhythm, "Osaga" features the ubiquitous flutes and drums of the matsuri, or festival, which mark the warmer months in Japan and the opening of this particular story. It's familiar territory, told in a mixture of English and Japanese: having to leave home to find yourself while remembering the place that made you who you are — "without forgetting your roots / without forgetting your soul."

It may extol the virtues of a home far away, but "Osaga" is hardly foreign: It mixes the flavors of L.A. and Osaka, combining Yuki's powerful alto and the sharp articulations and vocal acrobatics of Cico's rapping, with infectious beats and repeated calls of "where you from," "represent" and "come on." No language barrier would be sufficient to make it seem distant — the groove, and the gist, are right there.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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