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Destined: Afrirampo

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Japan's Afrirampo bring vigor and fun-loving musical freedom with their powerful, primitive stomp-and-roll.

Destined: Afrirampo

  • Download Afrirampo from Afrirampo’s self-titled CD-R.

"I call them 'mutant psychedelic from the new generation,'" says Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mothers Temple. "I met them at a gig in autumn '03. I got a big shock, for the first time in about 20 years, what a crazy band!"

A guitar and drum duo, the two sisters who comprise Afrirampo go by the names Oni (guitar) and Pikacyu. Their chosen names give a fair indication of the combination of intensity and fun-loving insanity that is Afrirampo: "oni" means either "demon" or "it" in a game of tag, while Pikacyu is taken from the electrically-charged cute monster of Pokemon fame.

Growing up in Osaka, Japan, the two sisters started playing as teenagers, choosing their instruments somewhat at random: "No special reason...it fits our body!" Oni played with instrumental trio Hankoki, and Pika drummed with a psychedelic quartet of girls called Z, though neither band released any recordings. In the spring of 2002, at the ages of 18 and 19, they formed Afrirampo as a duo, deciding that drums, guitar, and vocals would suffice.

Asked where the name came from, they claim it was given by their mother: "Our great mom gave it to us. It means 'Naked - soul, music, dick, head, mind, animal!" – essentially "Naked Rock." Their stylistic combination doesn't bring any better description to mind, so we'll roll with that. Taking equal parts garage rock energy, free rock chaos, tribal stomp, and psychedelia's willingness to explore, Afrirampo are true musical free spirits.

It's certainly telling that the duo have, in less than two years, gone from being complete unknowns playing in Osaka's underground to becoming a central fixture of the scene. With pillars like Kawabata and DMBQ's Shinji Masuko spreading the word, Afrirampo ended 2004 having opened for Sonic Youth in Europe, taken on vocal duties on two recent Acid Mothers Temple releases, and played a handful of shows on both coasts in the U.S. Not to mention their self-released CD-R being reissued on the Acid Mothers Temple label; oh, and having gone to Africa to record with pygmies for a month...

This coming year will see Afrirampo releasing new albums on Tzadik in the U.S. and Kioun/Sony in Japan. About the Tzadik release, they say, "We are making it !still! We want to make it of improvisational songs. But not yet...wait!" Ordinarily, they say, their songs are a combination of improvisation and composition, which seems clear on listening: there's the spontaneity that comes from improvising, but the songs remain bounded, and never veer off into unfocused "jams."

Their songwriting begins spontaneously: "We make almost all of the songs at the studio, just playing, playing, and they happen. That's it!" Although they both trade off on vocals on most songs, it's the music that they concentrate on. "We don't think a lot about words," Oni says. "Sometimes they're just like sound, sometimes love songs."

While their recordings are undeniably exciting, it must be said that Afrirampo is really about the live show. Dressed up or down, Oni and Pika take their rock back to its primitive roots. In a smart move, then, their upcoming release from Kioun/Sony will contain both a CD and a DVD, allowing a wider audience to appreciate the performance spectacle that is an Afrirampo show.

After a number of upcoming live dates in Japan during the spring – including opening for Sonic Youth, DMBQ, and even Guru Guru's Mani Neumeier – they look forward to returning to the States later in the year. "Audiences are totally different," Oni thinks. "In Japan a lot of audiences are watching and listening, very serious and quiet. In the U.S., they're very high, loud, and really enjoying it, drunk...like a party!" They love playing anywhere, but, "Quiet is really sad, because we can't understand if it's a good show or bad."

The impression that Afrirampo make on audiences and other musicians they play with is summed up by Acid Mothers' Kawabata: "We could feel such great vibrations from each other, and we got lots of power from each other too. They are so powerful, positive, and primitive."

By Mason Jones

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