Made In Japan - Authentic Japanese Music For Film and TV

Oct 30, 2020

The Sound of Japan

When most people think of Japan, they summon a range of different images; serene Onsen (Hot Springs) and bustling city streets with neon-illuminated characters, a place where sophisticated technology rubs shoulders with a deep and ancient culture. But what does it sound like? Unfortunately - or rather unsurprisingly - most people’s experience of Japanese music outside of Japan probably comes from the background music at their local sushi bar, or perhaps from the 2003 Sofia Coppola film ‘Lost In Translation’. Like much of Japan’s popular culture, its deep musical heritage is a fusion of past and present, with a breadth of influences across time and distance. Syn is privileged to experience Japan’s sonic identity on a daily basis, having been based in Tokyo for over thirty years. Founded in Tokyo by Simon Le Bon, Yasmin Le Bon and Nick Wood in 1991, Japan is an inextricable part of Syn’s identity and story.

‘Made In Japan’, Syn’s newly announced collection of contemporary Japanese music, is a vessel to take you on a sonic journey to Japan. For over two years, Syn has gathered a network of like-minded musicians to share their craft and contribute to this varied collection of authentic music from the region.
Including original compositions that feature Japan’s national instrument (the stringed, harp-like ‘Koto’) and the Shamisen (three-stringed instrument derived from the Chinese instrument Sanxian).
With styles and genres ranging from Japanese Indie Rock, to Electronic and Hip Hop, ‘Made In Japan’ celebrates the true sonic landscape of Japan, as experienced everyday by our team in Tokyo.
As much as the bustling streets of Tokyo’s central Shibuya district are a feast for the eyes, they are also a sensory treat for the ears.
Music and sound are as dynamic a part of Japan’s capital as its famed reputation for all things visual. In this spirit of combining music and picture, this collection, ‘Made In Japan’ has been composed and created especially for placement in Film, TV and Advertising, offering music supervisors, editors and curators an authentic, contemporary soundtrack for placement in projects that have a Japanese theme.
Within the collection, urban city-scapes are conjured by tracks such as ‘Tokyo Muscle’ and ‘Wasteland’, whilst soothing, ambient themes create contrast, featuring tracks such as ‘The Space’ and ‘Tokyo Telepathy’. A common theme of shared heritage and cultural influence ties the collection together, taking the listener on a truly Japanese listening experience.

Why Now?

Having been actively part of Tokyo’s music community for over 30 years, a reasonable question to ask would be, ‘Why now?’. Nick Wood, Syn’s CEO and Creative Director, shares some of his vision for the project, “I think it was really a decision based on recognising that there’s a lot more international interest in Japan. When it was announced that Japan had The Olympics, at some point I woke up and thought ‘we better do something related to this global opportunity connecting Syn with clients coming into Japan around The Olympics’. I also think it was time for us to pay tribute and acknowledge our roots and our geographical location in Tokyo.” With the challenges of COVID-19 postponing the Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021, we are fortunate to have been granted more time to share ‘Made In Japan’ with the wider world, as the international community keeps a close cultural eye on Japan ahead of August next year. Whilst limitations on long-haul travel make cultural exchanges more complex at the moment, ‘Made In Japan’ offers a musical solution to any production, event or otherwise that requires a Japanese flavour.

Featured Artists and Instrumentalists

The creative process of ‘Made In Japan’ has taken over two years, with a focus on authenticity and originality being crucial to its success.

Recorded in our studio in the heart of Harajuku (Central Tokyo), the instrumentalists behind many of these tracks are at the centre of its high level of quality.
Musicians such as Masato Shibata, a nationally award winning Shamisen instrumentalist from Miyagi prefecture, Miho Yoshiba, a Koto player who has been playing the instrument from the age of seven and Unhelly’s, a celebrated rock / hip-hop / jazz duo from Tokyo, who are famed for their legendary live performances (and who are sometimes known as the Japanese White Stripes), are just some of the artists who have collaborated on ‘Made In Japan’ to create a uniquely honest collection of local music with an impressive range of styles.

Working with Japanese vocalists such as Yuka Ishibashi, Kocho and Satoko Nishikawa - who has over 40 years of singing experience in bands such as Shang Shang Typhoon - has allowed us to give character to this collection, highlighting the individuals themselves and maintaining that people are at the heart of the music we make.

The Montage below gives a behind the scenes glimpse at the making and recording sessions of ‘Made In Japan’, paying tribute to the many composers, producers and musicians who worked together to bring ‘Made In Japan’ to life.

Artist Collection

As well as creating original bespoke compositions, we have reached out to our network of independent record labels, bands and artists to put together a collection of fresh, undiscovered Japanese music. From the feel good indie rock of band enkawos to the experimental electronic soundscapes of Primula, with the boom bap rap of DJ Baku and the soulful R&B flavors of Maishima Soshi we have curated a selection of tracks that provide a glimpse into the beating heart of the Japanese music scene.

The ‘Obi’

As anyone who has wondered through Syn’s local neighbourhood of Shibuya knows, Syn is lucky to be close by to several record stores. Sifting through vinyl records and admiring the artwork is time well spent anywhere in the world, but in Japan, there is an added luxury of admiring the quirks of how Western records are adapted visually to a Japanese audience. As Western musical artists became increasingly popular in Japan, the tradition of including an ‘Obi’ (originally the Japanese word for the belt on a Kimono or Yukata) became a celebrated feature of Japanese Vinyl, CDs, Video Games and DVDs. The ‘Obi’ formed a paper belt around the record, giving a localised description of the artist, the track-list and any other promotional material. Whilst initially a purely practical feature, records with ‘Obi’ strips are now highly collectable and can still be found in most Japanese record stores.

In honour of this wonderful tradition, Syn worked with long-time partner and lovers-of-all-things Japanese, North Design (https://www.northdesign.co.uk/) to bring this concept to life and include an Obi on Made In Japan. The inclusion of an Obi on ‘Made In Japan’s artwork is more than just a homage to Japan, it is a nod to the rich heritage of production music libraries that valued a narrative (for example, ‘A happy catchy tune in the new Pop March Style’ is an actual description from a 1970s British Library production music catalogue) and encourages a collection of licensable music to have an identity of its own, similar to that of a commercially released artist. Nick Wood shares some insight into his relationship with North, “North usually have two or three trips a year to Japan, and last year we shared our company Bōnenkai (end of year party) with them. North have a really great understanding of Japanese artwork and design, but bring it into an international, global perspective. They do have Japanese staff as well. They came up with this beautiful design; I guess it is quite a traditional Japanese pattern, but they gave it a Syn twist.”

Why Japan?

It will be of no surprise that Japan has inspired some of the most captivating moments in 21st century Film and TV. From Bladerunner to Kill Bill, Godzilla to Lost In Translation, the spirit of Japan has struck a chord with creatives around the world and perpetuated a magnetic sense of mystery. 2021 sees Japan-centric projects such as HBO’s ‘Tokyo Vice’ and Apple TV’s ‘Pachinko’ enter production, with Tokyo being at the heart of both of these projects, and we anticipate cultural interest in Japan to keep growing. Japan last hosted the Olympic Games in 1964 - a momentously important event for Japan - and the anticipation ahead of 2021’s Olympic Games is not to be understated. Whatever the disruption to the games may or may not be, one thing is certain: Japan is in the spotlight and what better a way to share her unique character with the world than through her music.

Whilst most of us may not be jetting off to Japan anytime soon, Syn’s ‘Made In Japan’ collection is here to bring quality and authentic Japanese music to the producers, creators and directors who bring Japan to us. In the words of German poet Heinrich Heine, “Where words leave off, music begins”.

Since launching 'Made In Japan' earlier this summer, we have had an overwhelmingly positive response, and have subsequently licensed tracks for global television and gaming brands. If you are in need of authentic, contemporary Japanese music for your project, don't hesitate to get in touch!