- International Blues Challenge Contestant -
2013 Solo/Duo Category / 2011 Band Category
Hailing from the Land of Rising Sun (Japan), TOKYO TRAMPS is a group of American roots music fanatics. The musical journey started when Satoru left Japan to go to Louisiana searching for the spirit of Rock'n'Roll. Soon he found the key, Blues. Yukiko left a lucrative job in Tokyo and took a giant step following her heart to play American music. Then in 1999, TOKYO TRAMPS was born in Boston. Junpei, who is classically trained and jazz baptized joined in June 2012. Jungho came on board in November 2012 bringing
second-line beat via New Orleans. Satoru took its name TRAMPS from his early idol, Bruce Springsteen's song, Born To Run - "Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run."..... Satoru says, “American music changed our lives. Four individuals chanced to meet in Boston, and taking cues from our musical heroes, we’re creating something very unique and exciting. We’re making our dreams come true every time we play.”
TOKYO TRAMPS has been extensively performing 80~100 shows a year in New England to Tri-State area since 1999. They got a wide variety of blues/rooty originals and cover songs, and has toured from New Orleans to Toronto, Indianapolis to Los Angels. TOKYO TRAMPS became a popular faces in Boston Blues scene ; appearing at festivals, best music polls, competitions, and many other events. They won The River City Ohio Blues Competition 2010 and represented a Blues Society in Marrietta, OH at 2011 IBC(International Blues Challenge) in Memphis, TN. Satoru Nakagawa is the Semifinalist for 2013 IBC (Solo/Duo), represented Massachusetts Blues Society.
TOKYO TRAMPS won the 18th Annual River City Ohio Blues Competition 2010 and proceeded to the International Blues Competition 2011 in Memphis, TN.
TOKYO TRAMPS was a Finalist for "Boston Blues Challenge 2011," and a semifinalist for "Boston Blues Challenge 2009."
TOKYO TRAMPS was the Runner-up winner of Boston Phoenix / WFNX 2010 and 2007 BEST MUSIC POLL Local Blues Act Category. TRAMPS also won Indie Artist of the Year from Immie Award 2007.
TOKYO TRAMPS was a semifinalist for "Boston Blues Challenge" in 2004. The winner of WMWM 91.7FM radio's Battle of the Bands in 2004.
TOKYO TRAMPS has been playing extensively in New England ~ Tri-State area. Some examples of apperances are:
Massachusetts - Ryles, Harpers Ferry, House of Blues, TT the Bears, Hard Rock Cafe, ChiliHead BBQ, Bull Run Restaurant, Smoken' Joe's BBQ, Lucky Dog Music Hall, Lizard Lounge, Abbey Lounge, Plough and Stars, Church, The Sea Note, Midway Cafe, Kirkland Cafe, Next Page Cafe, and many more!
New York - Kenny's Castaways, Baggot Inn, Blaggards Pub, Lion's Den, The Annex, Alphabet Lounge. New Jersey - the Buffstone's. Pennsylvania - Abilene, Club128, and the Tokio Ballroom. Rhode Island - The call. New Hampshire - Dolphin Striker, the Barley House. Maine - Port City Music Hall........and many many more!!
Showcase appearance are : Bignoise showcase (Providence, RI) in February2001, CuttingEdge Music Conference (New Orleans, LA), Midwest Music and Film Festival (Lexington, KY) in August 2002, and Indianapolis Music Conference in November 2003, Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg, PA and Independence Music Conference in Philadelphia, PA in 2004/2005/2007, North By North East Music Festival in Toronto, ON in June 2006, NEMO Music Festival in Boston, MA in September 2006, and Independence Music Festival in Los Angels, CA in 2008. Keene Music Festival in Keene, NH in 2009 and 2010, Blues and Brews Festival in 2010.
A few example of TOKYO TRAMPS' appearances in local media are : Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Magazine, Metronome magazine, Soundcheck Magazine, The Noise Magazine, WAAF, WFNX, 92.5 The River, WMWM 91.7FM, AOTV, WIN-TV, and so on.
Satoru Nakagawa - Guitar/Vocal
Yukiko Fujii - Bass, Vocal
Junpei Fujita - Sax
Jungho Kang - Drums
"Rollin' Rockland Blues Hour"
12 songs CD released on January 17, 2013
"With These Hands"
12 songs CD released on October 31, 2009
11 songs CD released on September 15, 2008
"Lucky Jive Will Come Home On King's Road""
4 songs CD released on May 17, 2006
"Bound For Glory"
10 songs CD released on June 1, 2003
"Long Way From Home"
7 songs CD released in August 2000
"Me And My Guitar"
Satoru Nakagawa Solo Acoustic Album
5 songs CD released on January 17, 2013
Good Morning, Marietta
The Ghost Of Old Love
Bound For Glory 2012
Me And My Guitar
Come On Baby, Dry Your Tears
No Time Woman Blues
Holler And Shout
With These Hands
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Tokyo Tramps outdo themselves on Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour CD (February 2013)
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Always one of the finest blues bands around Boston, the Tokyo Tramps have outdone even themselves on...Always one of the finest blues bands around Boston, the Tokyo Tramps have outdone even themselves on their new album Rollin’ Rockland Blue Hour. Named after the town Rockland, Massachusetts that hosts recording studio 37 ft Productions where they recorded it, the CD has a freer, looser, and more sophisticated sound structure than any of their previous efforts. Without losing their punch, the trio presents their blues music with a new finesse in their layering and performance.
Opening track “Good Morning, Marietta” finds guitarist-songwriter Satoru Nakagawa pressing out a breezy melodic phrases that flies as free as a kite in the wind. Nakagawa also grinds out some heavier, meaner phrases too here. His lead vocal is in fine form, sounding like an older, experienced blues man. His vocal exchanges with bassist-wife Yukiko Fujii shimmer with bright warm colors and tones. Her pretty, delicate voice is the perfect foil to Nakagawa’s rougher, huskier belt.
Speaking of Fujii, she also graces the next song “Empty Pockets” with her winsome, likable vocal approach. There is a certain quaintness to her voice as well as how perfectly she uses it. Fujii and drummer Kosei Fukuyama keep an infectious groove going on, making the listener want to move his feet. The song will hit home with most people as it’s about a lack of money after all the bills are paid. Nakagawa cuts loose with another edgy guitar line while saxophonist Junpei Fujita keeps a bluesy horn melody unfurling over all.
“Come On Baby, Dry Your Tears” is a slow dance number in which Nakagawa plays the most tasteful lead guitar lines in Bean town. You can hear honest emotion in his melodic phrases as it meanders at its own sweet pace around the rhythm section. His guitar speaks tenderly to ears and to the heart and offers something more than the usual tender guitar lines over down tempo grooves.
“Me And My Guitar” brings the Tokyo Tramps more into rough road house blues territory. Nakagawa grinds out old time electric guitar blues motifs while the rhythm section keeps him anchored in. The earliest electric blues pioneers can be heard in his work, along with oldies rock and roll and rockabilly. The song is about a guitarist comforting himself through sad times with his music. As songwriter and player, Nakagawa succeeds in creating a comforting and familiar blues sound that makes the song work on multiple levels. When the song gets going, it reaches the catharsis level with a climax of emotion that leads the songwriter and the listener to other side of blues, which is salvation.
Fujii is a cool blues chanteuse on “Bound For Glory.” With the hip confident swagger of a 1960s rock stat, she rides her vocal over the bopping groove and alongside Fujita’s sax melody. Fujii also serves up a steady bass run as a foil to Nakagawa’s personality-infused guitar line. The band eventually goes whole hog, getting into their groove with unflinching, empowered guitar leads thrusting and parrying with driving horn and rhythm section.
The trio slow things down again for “The Ghost Of My Old Love.” This slow boil finds Nakagawa singing a haunting vocal line, like his voice is traveling down a long dark cavern over his blistering lead lines. His electric guitar gets another fine workout during the instrumental portion. He makes it cry, growl, and shout his haunted anguish over a startling memory of a past love. The thick notes he grinds out feel like a personal exorcism. He eventually, after a long spiritual fight to the death, drives the demon out.
“I’m Movin’ On” returns the Tramps to a fun, danceable frame of mind as Nakagawa sings of a need for independence from his family and their small town life. While the theme, groove, and guitar picking are all universal, Nakagawa takes it up a notch beyond most dance ditties, mostly with a fresh enthusiasm in his notes and chords. A saxophone line is pretty cool too.
“Going Back To New Orleans” is Nakagawa’s ode to the first American city he lived in. His rootsie, bluesy picking style is on the mark and the song has an appropriate roadhouse feel. Nakagawa peels off his greasy notes like he’s got all the time in the world and takes care to bend and sustain them nice and sweetly.
The trio get into a funky feeling on “No Time Woman Blues.” Nakagawa’s lead phrase is drenched in Chicago blues stylings, and Fujii proves an effective vocalist, crooning coolly over the juke joint beat and traveling lead guitar line. Her expressions are clear, crisp, and full of emotion. In this song, she sings of needing more time to love her man, and she makes the listener feel it. Her busy schedule keeps her on the go, and the frustration mounts, and that leads to more hilly mounds and lifts in the song structure. Beautiful.
“I’m A Country Boy” finds Nakagawa continuing to play his electric blues guitar at a higher level of effectiveness. Like the whole of this album, he finds that level of art and beauty where his vocal, guitar expressions, and groove work together more smoothly than ever before. One reason why this Tramps album is their best yet is a feeling of freedom. The trio are not trying as hard to be good. Instead of being industrious, which they still are to some extent, they just let the feeling of the music take over and more good things come out of that. Here, Nakagawa showcases his guitar talents like a flying trapeze artist, playing notes way up high, making contact with groove and verses at just the right moments, so it doesn’t all fall apart.
“Papa’s My Number One Fan” provides Fujii with a perfect vehicle to strut her vocal stuff in a rapid, hard-hitting blues format. She nails the urgency of wanting to escape from a strict father to sing in a rock and roll band. Just as frenetic is the pace at which she wants to reconnect with her businessman papa when he changes his tune about her music career. The trio grind out some hard-driving, energetic blues here, making sparks as they hit the ground running with each change. Fujii’s background in other genres left her well prepared to emote around all these volcanic eruptions of blues power.
The trio close out their album with the easeful slide guitar oriented “A Quiet Evening.” Nakagawa likes doing some slide work in his live Tramps shows, and he moves that old time sound around like he invented it. Here, it’s like the slide is waltzing with the groove and the vocal, shards of crisp guitar phrases soft-stepping in gracefully at the perfect moments.
Words alone cannot describe how far the Tokyo Tramps have come on this new album. They trio simply take their blues and Americana roots knowledge and talents to a higher level, resulting in their best CD ever. Drummer Kosei Fukuyama has since left the trio to return to Japan to help his country rebuild after it suffered the worst natural disasters on record. As drummer, he left behind a valuable contribution to the Tramps legacy. His work on this album is as stellar as the other two players and their guest saxophonist. Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour is sure to take Tokyo Tramps to a higher level of recognition.
CD Review - Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour (January 2013)
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Though this review will probably be released after the International Blues Challenge and the Tokyo T...Though this review will probably be released after the International Blues Challenge and the Tokyo Tramps have recently undergone a line-up change, I expect Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour and Satoru Nakagawa’s entry into the solo/duo competition of the IBC to herald a very big year for the Tokyo Tramps.
It may sound incredibly crass, or show my complete naiveté when it comes to making money in the music industry, but ultimately I don’t care. The Tokyo Tramps have been an enigma from the first moment I heard them and remain an enigma as I attempt to review their sixth release, Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour. In a contemporary blues market where originality is given a back seat to non-threatening packaging, I have absolutely no idea why a major blues indy label which used to be the toast of Chicago, or any other label hasn’t scooped up the Tokyo Tramps, offered up some capital support and then just laughed their way to the bank.
Whether it be their blues power trio line-up, or their new blues quartet line-up, I have yet to hear a band like the Tokyo Tramps play such a radio-friendly blues rock sound without diluting their sound with a complete lack of originality. While many others either get caught up with copying their musical heroes or not having strong enough musical chops to add their own original inflection on the standard chord progressions, Satoru, Yukiko and the Tokyo Tramps lay down an irresistible Chicago Blues Rock sound while also paying homage to their Japanese roots by mixing American blues idioms with their Japanese heritage.
Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour opens with “Good Morning Marietta,” which also appears on Satoru’s solo EP Me and My Guitar. On the version recorded for Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour, drummer Kosei Fukuyama kicks off the song with a New Orleans Second Line drum groove before both Yukiko Fujii and Satoru lay down their bass and guitar lines. The irresistible groove and pocket created by the trio set the listener up for the remaining 11 tracks. For those who have had the chance to experience the Tokyo Tramps live, “Me and My Guitar” (which is also the title and a track available on Satoru’s EP), is one of those signature tracks that they can truly appreciate. From the opening riff, it is easy to envision Satoru wailing on his Telecaster while stomping on a pool table a la most of their appearances at Geezers Garage Nite at the Granite Rail in Quincy or any of their other live appearances, while Yukiko and Kosei lock down an extended groove. The energy conveyed on “Me and My Guitar” sounds devoid of drop-ins or overdubs and is all that was needed for this track. Proving every bit the vocalist, song writer, and rocker, Yukiko handles the vocal duties on “Papa’s My Number One Fan.” The lyrics on this tune are obviously biographical; a touching tale of a father’s unconditional love belted out over a raucous track. The highly original track makes for repeated spins. If my earlier prognostication does not prove true, it won’t be for the lack of talent or effort on behalf of Tokyo Tramps. With an active gigging and recording schedule, the Tokyo Tramps prove they are more than willing to do what it takes to entertain the masses. Here is to hoping the right people at the IBC get wind of that Tokyo Tramps sound.
Tokyo Tramps \ Rising blues stars from land of the rising sun (June 2012)
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Care for a little sushi with your barbecue? A Japanese blues band is a novelty, but the Tokyo Tra...Care for a little sushi with your barbecue?
A Japanese blues band is a novelty, but the Tokyo Tramps, led by the husband-and-wife team of Satoru Nakagawa and Yukiko Fujii on guitar, bass and vocals, manage to combine American blues and roots music with an Asian twist. For example, the Tramps use the polite lyric: "I am concerned" in place of something like, say, "Damn right I got the blues!"
The Tramps, along with the Reprobates, a pop-rock band; and Roadside Prophet, a recently reunited group that plays soul, New Orleans-style funk, and rhythm and blues, will perform in a triple-bill split show Friday at the Bull Run.
Fujii, who left Tokyo in the 1990s after studying law and advancing in a lucrative career at an advertising firm, said while she has been singing and playing piano and bass since she was young (at parties and weddings), she could not hack the gender-inequality in her homeland, both at her job and in the music world. A four-week vacation in New York City sealed the deal. She quit her day job, and much to her parents' dismay, moved to the U.S.
"Every single night I went to clubs, bars and musicals. I loved it so much," she said.
Meanwhile, Nakagawa, now a virtuoso on slide guitar, was already enamored with American music. Bruce Springsteen was one of his early heroes, and he got the name "Tramps" from one of the Boss's songs.
The songwriter of the group, Nakagawa moved to Louisiana in 1990, just out of high school. Figuring American music was rooted in the south, he went in search of the "spirit of rock 'n' roll," going from town to town in that state absorbing deep blues, gospel and rock 'n' roll. Soon, he said, it became clear that blues was the father of rock. (A variation on the Muddy Waters song "The blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll.")
Their drummer, Kosei Fukuyama, , from Sapporo, Japan, studied music at Berklee in Boston, after his father encouraged him to go out and see the world. Strongly influenced by jazz and classical music, he took up piano at age 5 and percussion at 12. His ambition is to make it big in the U.S.
Fujii and Nakagawa met in Boston, with Fukuyama joining them in 2007. They have played all around New England and have twice been semi-finalists in annual Boston Blues Challenges. Two years ago - on the road again - they represented a blues society from Ohio at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, driving from Ohio to Memphis and taking in the Mississippi Delta while they were at it.
The Tramps have four CDs under their karate belts, and are set to start recording a fifth this fall. The recent death of Fujii's mother meant several trips back and forth to Japan during the illness. Besides taking an emotional toll, she said, it created six months of uncertainty for the band in scheduling shows and making the new CD. Fujii has since joined a metal band, "Knight Storm," which performs mostly in New Hampshire.
She says she is still too sad to perform a song she wrote and dedicated to her mother, called "Someday You Will Come Home," so on Friday, the band will focus on New Orleans, Chicago and Delta blues.
Roadside Prophet comprises seasoned veterans from the New England music scene, including Barry Fitzpatrick on guitar, but minus the late founding member Charlie Downs. The band has re-formed with renewed conviction to funk and blues, according to show organizer Steve Gaetz of Leominster.
The Reprobates, a passionate blues-rock band from Winchendon, has received accolades from blues greats such as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, John Lee Hooker and Robert Lockwood.
"Reprobates, Tramps and Prophets"
When: 8 p.m. June 15
Where: Bull Run Restaurant, 215 Great Road, Shirley
How much: $10 admission. (978) 425-4311, www.bullrunrestaurant.com
CUTLINE: Tokyo Tramps will perform Friday at the Bull Run with the Reprobates and Roadside Prophet.
Memphis or Bust (January 2011)
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It was nearly a year ago that guitarist Satoru Nakagawa, bassist Yukiko Fujii, and drummer Kosei Fuk...It was nearly a year ago that guitarist Satoru Nakagawa, bassist Yukiko Fujii, and drummer Kosei Fukuyama made what turned out to be a fateful 13-hour trip from Boston to Marietta to play in the 2010 River City Ohio Blues Competition.
"We didn't know what to expect," Nakagawa said. "But we came, played for 20 minutes, and won."
Their band, the Tokyo Tramps, was back in town Friday, performing at the Adelphia Music Hall on Second Street.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
ABOVE: The Tokyo Tramps, winners in the group category at the 2010 River City Ohio Blues Competition, were back in Marietta Friday, playing their unique style of blues for the crowd at The Adelphia Music Hall.
"We were surprised - this venue didn't even exist when we were here last year," Nakagawa said of the music hall.
The hall was packed as the Tramps joined fellow blues-makers and 2010 duo competition winners Bongo Joe and Little Steve-O of Akron for a "Memphis Bound Get Down" performance.
The event was a fundraiser to help foot the bill as both groups head south next week to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.
Upcoming blues events:
Tokyo Tramps, winners of the 2010 River City Ohio Blues Competition, will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday at a fundraiser for the Campus Martius Museum, 601 Second St., Marietta.
The 2011 competition is scheduled for Feb. 18 and 19 at the Lafayette Hotel in downtown Marietta.
Winners will compete for cash prizes and local Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge in 2012 in Memphis, Tenn.
For more information about the competition and upcoming events, visit www.bjfm.org
The River City Ohio Blues Competition is the oldest and largest blues talent competition in Ohio, with 18 competition slots to be filled by blues acts from Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states.
"We're just looking to have a great time and meet a lot of people in Memphis," said acoustic guitarist Bongo Joe Bongiovanni.
His partner, vocalist and harmonica player Little Steve Fine, agreed.
"We've never been to Memphis, but we'd really like to win there," he said.
Both groups have been playing together for some time.
Nakagawa, Fujii, and Fukuyama, all natives of Japan, had never performed together until they met while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston.
"The majority of what we play is our own, although we do perform some covers of songs by artists like Muddy Waters," Nakagawa said.
He's lived in the U.S. since 1990, and spent five years in Louisiana before moving to Boston where he studied songwriting.
Fujii began playing bass in Japan, but gave it up to work on schooling there, then moved to Boston where she studied voice.
She and Nakagawa were dating and performing in their own bands when he learned she played bass guitar and asked her to join him.
Fukuyama came to Berklee in 2001 to study - what else? - drums, although he had been performing in some sort of percussion since middle school in Japan.
The Tramps have recorded five CDs, and Nakagawa said in addition to competing in Memphis they hope to make some connections with others in the recording industry.
He said their music doesn't fit any single description.
"We take it from many different styles of blues," Nakagawa said.
Fine and Bongiovanni have been a duo for the last three years, but both were initially playing in a four-man band in the Akron area.
"We have a passion for the blues and like playing together," Bongiovanni said.
A guitarist for 25 years, he originally hails from the Bronx in New York City, and moved to the Akron area in 1992.
Fine, from Mayfield Heights, said he moved through various styles of music, including heavy metal and rock, before finally settling on the blues.
"This music just feels right for us," he said.
In addition to the competition, the duo also plays three to four nights a week at various venues in the Akron area.
Tokyo Tramps knocked everyone’s socks off at Village Trestle (October 2010)
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Tokyo Tramps knocked everyone’s socks off at Village Trestle
By Bill Copeland on October 17, 2010
The Tokyo Tramps blew into the Village Trestle in Goffstown, New Hampshire last night and then they blew everyone’s mind with their feisty deliveries of true American blues. One patron among the hearty supporters hollered out, “This band plays real blues!”
The trio opened their first set with their tune “Holler And Shout,” and Satoru Nakagawa’s svelte voice and nifty chord work was likely the first thing everyone noticed. His melodic phrases were full of Americana roots and blues gusto. He knows where this music comes from and he brings its soul to the forefront. The twists and turns in this song make it a bit longer than blues songs from the vintage days, yet it gives the modern audiences more to sink their teeth into. Sweet blues notes just kept coming out of their speakers.
Yukiko Fujii, bass player and vocalist, kept a smooth, even flow of low end notes as she has a lot of control over the trio’s sound and direction. Her voice degree was awarded by Berklee College of Music in Boston and her vocal performance last night was much above average. She really rode the range of her voice in these songs. After she would ring as much bluesy joy out of her lyrics, Satoru would chime in with tender, precise melodic phrases.
Nakagawa’s guitar breaks were full of feeling and generous offerings of technique and power. The Tokyo Tramps play so well that you want to listen closely to every subtle nuance. Without the traditional Louisiana instruments like accordion and washboard, the trio still conjured up their Cajun-flavored “Down On The Bayou” on guitar, bass, and drums. The concoction they came up with last night resembled Fats Domino’s “Walking To New Orleans” in its sing song pace and in its broth of chords and greasy leads.
The Tokyo Tramps soon moved into another song inspired by that southern state with “Thibodaux, Louisiana.” The song was marked by a lot of beautiful vocal harmonies between the two front people, and the double smoothness giving more life to their song. The trio jammed on the traditional rock and roll song “Iko Iko” and stretched it out like The Grateful Dead does with the same song. Drummer Kosei Fukuyama got to show his chops with beats that bump the song forward with pushy momentum. This drummer can inject movement into his beats and his solo showed how much he can expand the sound he gets out of his individual pieces.
Fujii sang a heartfelt song called “Some Day You Will Come Home.” The tune is about much she misses her mother who still lives in Japan. Backed by a beautiful, mellow guitar, Fujii’s vocal approach was touching, making you feel her song as well as hear it. Nakagawa brought out much of the song’s sentimental feel with his achingly beautiful guitar lines. Eventually, Fujii took more control by belting out with sustained notes near the end of her piece.
Much of The Tokyo Tramps set last night was marked by Nakagawa’s vintage sounding slide work and old time picking techniques. Country blues shuffles and two-step beats with local harp player “Slutty” Pete Zona chiming in created very tasty meshes of blues. “Big Time Blues” was another of the Tramp’s homegrown blues that sounded so vintage, with Nakagawa making those slide notes almost echo out that old time sound from a decade long ago. It should be noted that Zona was running the sound last night, as he does at many Village Trestle shows and during every Sunday afternoon Wan-Tu Blues Jams there.
“Dance Of Kindred Spirit” from the trio’s latest CD With These Hands might be inspired by Japanese folklore with its lyrics about ancient times and a “miracle of the century” and other epic themes. As a blues song it did well with slide and lead guitar and sounded at times like a clever travelogue set to music. Moving on to another new song, “Rollin’ And Tumblin,” the Tramps had a rolling, swampy beat that kept moving while Nakagawa’s slide guitar grinded out the essence of a hundred years of blues notes. That guy seems to feel what blues music felt like to people of previous decades.
Their latest title track “With These Hands” featured Fujii on vocals, and, her influences on it seemed to have every girl group from the early 1960s in her timbre. Telling her life story in a song must have been easier with a drummer like Kosei Fukuyama behind her with his driving, moveable beats. He is one of the area’s best drummers and he has that quality that shows up apart from the feel and the technique that drummers can only be lucky enough to be born with. “Good Morning, Marietta” found Satoru walking into the crowd with his guitar and singing sans microphone. “Everybody Wanna Be Loved” and “Shake Your Money Maker” offered more of the same Tokyo Tramps fun, moveable beats, smooth low end, and plenty of slide.
Closing out with “Got My Mojo Working” and “Crossroads” The Tokyo Tramps brought the show full circle back to the roots of where the blues originally came from. Nakagawa also sounded really cool on those classic blues standards.
It was a night of good blues music with the trio and the audience throwing energy back and forth. The owners of the Village Trestle will likely get a request for a return of The Tokyo Tramps from all who were in attendance.
Boston trio wins blues contest (February 2010)
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A Boston-based jazz trio from Japan was the winner of the 18th annual River City Ohio Blues Competit...A Boston-based jazz trio from Japan was the winner of the 18th annual River City Ohio Blues Competition on Friday and Saturday at the Lafayette Hotel in downtown Marietta.
At the end of the two-day blues contest Saturday night, The Tokyo Tramps were chosen as the first place finisher, followed by the Akron, Ohio, duo of Bongo Joe and Little Steve-O in second and Magic Mama Latte, of Gallipolis, in third.
The competition was sponsored by the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society of Marietta. A total of 17 blues bands and solo/duo blues acts competed for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to The Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge held annually in Memphis.
Photo courtesy of Dusty Scott
The Tokyo Tramps, a blues trio from Boston made up of Japanese musicians, was the winner of the 18th annual River City Ohio Blues Competition Saturday in Marietta.
As the winning band, The Tokyo Tramps will be able to compete in the Memphis event in 2011. Since the duo finished in the top three, Bongo Joe and Little Steve-O will also compete in Memphis.
The blues competition began Friday night and continued Saturday afternoon, with best performers from both preliminaries continuing to Saturday night's finals.
"It was really exceptional this year. We sold out Friday and Saturday," event spokesman and BJFMS member Steve Wells said of this year's competition.
"The great spirit smiled down upon the 18th annual River City Blues Competition. The break in the weather both Friday and Saturday brought out record breaking crowds that were seeking a cure for cabin fever," said BJFMS president John Bolen.
The first place winner received $1,000 cash and sponsorship to the IBC, while second place won $200 cash and third place won $100 cash.
In addition to this year's winning group from Boston, performers came from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and West Virginia to compete in Marietta over the weekend.
Area blues lovers who didn't have the chance to see The Tokyo Tramps perform in the competition will have another opportunity in March. Each year's Blues Competition winner also performs at the annual River City Blues Festival, also sponsored by BJFMS, at the Lafayette Hotel in March.
This year's Blues Festival will be March 19 and 20 and will feature performances by Shaun Booker, The Kinsey Report, Lionel Young, Zac Harmon, Teeny Tucker Band and Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne.
Tokyo Tramps, Boston’s Most Exotic Blues Band (January 2010)
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In case you haven’t heard by now, The Tokyo Tramps are a blues trio made up of players from Japa...
In case you haven’t heard by now, The Tokyo Tramps are a blues trio made up of players from Japan. After initial recognition for their novelty, this band has become respected for their singing, playing, and songwriting. Bass player Yukiko Fujii and her husband guitarist Satoru Nakagawa were on hand one afternoon to explain the history of their ten year old band.
They did not come to the United States specifically to start an American blues band. Fujii said her husband came to the U.S. to explore all kinds of American music but he found that blues is more his style. Fujii grew up in Tokyo and became interested in American music because there was a radio station in Tokyo for American military personnel. “I listened to the 70s, 80s American Top 40 a lot.” When she came to the U.S. in 1994, she was not yet a big fan of American blues.
The couple met at Berklee and they started a band together. Nakagawa had a lot of influences from blues, so it was a natural progression. They did not fit into Berklee’s jazz program, but they learned a lot at the school.
Satoru said he became interested in American blues when he was still a kid in Japan: “Tokyo is a huge, huge, metropolitan city. You can find any kind of music. Japan is an interesting country. My favorite singer there was Bruce Springsteen. That’s where I get the term ‘Tramps.’ ‘Tramps like us baby we were born to run. But in Japan, Springsteen’s not popular at all. Madonna and Michael Jackson, they’re a lot bigger than Springsteen.”
“When I was in junior high“ Satoru continued, “I started listening to Springsteen. I discovered rock and roll came from blues, so I started listening to blues in high school. My first record was John Lee Hooker. I listened to it one time, then I put it away for like a year because he was so hard, so tough, so heavy, I couldn’t take it.”
“When I came to America,” Satoru went on, “I went to Louisiana because of that history. I was also fascinated by that American imagery, the cotton fields, the Mississippi River, Dixieland, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn. Those are my American visions. That’s how I chose to go to Louisiana.”
When he met his future wife and bass player, he had his own band going, and Yukiko had hers they had had the same drummer. That’s how they met and they soon started their own project together. But it was never the plan for either of them to form a band with their partner. “I wanted to marry an American girl, and she wanted to marry an American guy, Satoru said, laughing as she began laughing too. “So we could get the green card,” he added, and they laughed some more.
Blues audiences no longer see The Tokyo Tramps as a novelty. “I think we’re earning respect,” Satoru said. “Whenever we play a venue for the first time, and people don’t know who we are, then everybody is obviously looking at us, like, ‘What is going on? Asians?’ Once we start playing in the groove, and the song rocks the house, they’re like, ‘They’re serious. They’re serious.’ They start changing their faces, and they start dancing.”
The Tokyo Tramps recently played in Milford with The Ten Foot Polecats, and they were very well received. Louisiana was where Satoru got his blues education. He enrolled in a state university, but he did not get good grades due to distractions. “I was not a successful student. I partied a lot. I was young. I didn’t take life seriously. I was just playing music. I got suspended from college down there, and I went to Berklee. I didn’t want to come. I wanted to stay in Louisiana. As I look back, it was an important time for me. I heard the real guys down there in New Orleans and Louisianan. It was more like a life experience. I think I became a better guitarist and musician here in Boston, but those five years living in Louisiana was my treasure, actually.”
When asked who his blues inspirations are, Satoru answered with an experience. “That’s the hardest question,” he allowed. ““I saw B.B. King back in 1993 in Lafayette, Louisiana for the first time, and I cried as soon as B.B. came on stage and started playing instrumental guitar solo stuff. That was a very, very powerful experience. I still think that was the best live concert I’ve ever been too. It was so, so powerful. B.B. has always been one of my heroes, that’s for sure.”
Yukiko loves Etta James. “She’s great. She’s still powerful.” And Irma Thomas songs made an impression on her. Yukiko majored in voice at Berklee, and the voice department let her sing a lot of R&B. “I had a tough time,” she said. “So many girls used to sing in church. They were in a choir, gospel choir. All the girls sing so strong. And I’m Japanese. I’ve always had a difficult challenge to pronunciations.” Every audition for schools were tough for her.
Yukiko started listening to American music in the 1970s, mostly Top 40 and Motown. Meeting her future husband is when she started to learn blues. Yukiko took piano lessons as a child and she started playing bass in junior high in Japan, but gave up music in her high schools because Japanese students are under a lot of pressure to study hard. In college, she formed a band. So she picked up the bass again. Then she went to work for a Japanese company that let her band play its events. In her Berklee days she couldn’t find a good bass player, so she did it herself.
Her husband at one point thought her voice was too pretty to sing blues, so she focused on Etta James and Irma Thomas to learn more about blues vocal idioms.
Satoru said their new CD With These Hands is “by far the best record we’ve ever made.” The CD has been in production since last March and The Tokyo Tramps were finishing up the art work during the time of this interview. “This is the best thing I have ever done so far in my career. I’m very, very happy about it. I’ve never felt this way about my own music. I’m so excited.”
The Tokyo Tramps have two covers on the new CD. “Highway 49” by Big Joe Williams gave Satoru a chance to showcase his new passion for the slide guitar. They also included “Rollin’ and Tumblin’ by Muddy Waters because it is popular for slide players and because Muddy Waters did a lot of unique things in his songs.
Satoru went slide happy on the CD, and both Tokyo Tramps, along with their drummer, Kosei Fukuyama are excited about it. This could be a good chance for the Tramps and area blues fans to get better acquainted.
The Examiner (June, 2009)
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TOKYO TRAMPS defy all categories The Tokyo Tramps are an anomaly, that’s for certain – three Ja...TOKYO TRAMPS defy all categories
The Tokyo Tramps are an anomaly, that’s for certain – three Japanese musicians playing down-home American blues in their own unmistakable style. The Tramps are serious aficionados of old blues masters like Muddy Waters, they dip into Cajun zydeco, sprinkle in a little Latin influence and also love plain old American rock and roll. Rockers like Creedence Clearwater, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen have influenced the Tramps, who take their name from the “tramps like us” line in Springsteen’s “Born to Run.’
Guitarist/vocalist Satoru Nakagawa began a musical/spiritual quest as a young man, leaving Japan to visit Louisiana, where he experienced the blues up close and personal. He went on to study at Berklee College of Music, one of the few blues players among a sea of jazzers, and assembled the first version of the Tramps from fellow Berklee students. The current version of the band includes bassist/vocalist Yukiko Fujii (who is Nakagawa’s wife) and Kosei Fukuyama, on drums and vocals. They recently released a CD called Tokyo Gumbo, which has blues songs and tunes in a number of other styles, hence the Gumbo of the title. One of the songs, “Chicken Teriyaki,” is an instantly catchy novelty song that manages to channel both Carlos Santana and Weird Al Yankovic. It would fit perfectly in a Quentin Tarentino flick, though not his last one.
Nakagawa is a virtuoso blues guitarist who plays his Fender Telecaster with a battery of technical chops and a bluesman’s soul. His singing is more of a croon than a blues growl, but you know that he means what he sings. Fujii also sings, conjuring up the voice of a soulful Yoko Ono singing straight. They can raise the temperature of a room and get the dance floor rocking, especially during one of Nakagawa’s extended solos. They’ve played everywhere in the greater Boston area – Harpers Ferry, House of Blues, TT the Bears, Hard Rock Cafe, ChiliHead BBQ, Dodge Street Grill, Lizard Lounge, Abbey Lounge, Plough and Stars, Church, Midway Cafe, Kirkland Café. It can be safely said that they’re different than most blues bands you’ve seen. They’re always playing someplace in the area, so check ‘em out when they come to town. The band’s CD’s are available on Itunes and sold at their live shows. The website is www.tokyotramps.com.
CD Review - With These Hands (December 2009)
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Being blown away by a band previously unknown to me is one of those magical moments that fuels my pa...Being blown away by a band previously unknown to me is one of those magical moments that fuels my passion for live music; one that all music fans surely understand.
I had heard great things from reliable sources about the Tokyo Tramps, but it was not until the first round of the 2009 Boston Blues Challenge that I had a chance to witness why so many spoke so highly of them. I walked into Johnny D’s having only second-hand knowledge and walked out a fan of both their music and their back-story.
The Tokyo Tramps are three people willing to follow their dreams, all having independently moved from Japan to The United States to pursue their love of music. Somehow, perhaps by fate, they all met in Boston and formed a dynamic three-piece blues rock band that blends early Chicago Blues with pop harmonies, irresistible hooks and Far Eastern idioms.
In the opening bars of “Holler & Shout” drummer Kosei Fukuyama doubles Satoru Nakagawa’s melodic humming with well-placed marimba work and handclaps, forming a minimalist arrangement that induces goose bumps. By the time Yukiko Fujii’s bass, Satoru’s guitar and Kosei’s full drum kit enter the mix, the trio immediately locks into a big fat groove.
On “Nothing But The Blues” Yukiko takes a turn with the lead vocals, singing about a coming-of-age moment in her life while trying to write her masterpiece. Satoru’s lead guitar work alternates between some work with a slide and single note leading.
“Rollin’ & Tumblin”, the traditional blues song often attributed to Muddy Waters, is usually a cover song with cringe-inducing characteristics. With songs that have been recorded hundreds of times there usually is not much life left in the track, but no worries here. The combination of Satoru’s slide and Kosei’s almost disco-sounding drumming breathe new life into a very dead traditional.
There are too many gems on this disk to boil it down to one great track, but I can say my personal favorite has to be “I’ll Give You All of My Best”. The pulsating slide guitar line is irresistible. Yukiko and Satoru share lead vocals on this track, singing about their passion for music, and while everything else in the world is changing they remain passionate about performing. It is an illustration that proves a musician does not have to trace his lineage back to Mississippi in order to be considered a blues musician.
With the current trends in music favoring reproduction and imitation, it is refreshing to hear the Tokyo Tramps retain all of their ethnicity within their vocals. With a local blues music scene littered with accomplished musicians, it provides just a little something extra to help differentiate them.
Boston Herald (July 4, 2008)
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The band: Satoru Nakagawa (guitar, voice), Yukiko Fujii (bass), Kosei Fukuyama (drums) The geogra...The band: Satoru Nakagawa (guitar, voice), Yukiko Fujii (bass), Kosei Fukuyama (drums)
The geography: All three members of Tokyo Tramps hail from Japan and live in Boston's Fenway neighborhood.
The sound: Blues rock with a big nod to Bruce Springsteen
The back story: After finishing high school in Japan, singer and songwriter Nakagawa moved to Louisiana to explore his fondness for blues rock. He spent five years partying and playing music, which led to his expulsion (oops!) from the University of New Orleans. In 1996, he enrolled at Berklee College of Music to pursue his love of blues - without the distraction of Bourbon Street.
Tokyo Tramps is a trio of Japanese Berklee grads that came together in 1999 when Nakagawa asked his then-girlfriend Yukiko Fujii, now his wife of four years, to fill in on bass.
"I didn't want to play with my partner," Nakagawa said, "but my bass player left and I asked her to fill in. And then I couldn't get rid of her!"
Recent Berklee grad Fukuyama joined last year after the Tramps' original drummer returned to Japan.
"We didn't have a drummer for three or four months so we did the acoustic, street performer thing in Harvard Square," Nakagawa said. "We were also a wedding band and Kosei was hired for that. It was really lucky. I feel very fortunate."
The name: "We didn't know what to call ourselves," Nakagawa said.
So he looked to the lyrics of Springsteen's "Born to Run" for inspiration: "Tramps like us, baby we were born to run."
The philosophy: Tokyo Tramps' blues rock is not a soundtrack for depression. The trio's songs convey messages of hope and happiness.
"I'm a Buddhist," Nakagawa said, "which means you must become happy and recognize Buddhahood in yourself and in everybody around you. There is happiness in everybody, it's just a matter of finding it. That's what I do in my music."
"We have a word in Japanese that means turning poison into medicine," Nakagawa said. "We all carry sadness and pain and agony and stuff, but there's always a way to turn it into joy. All my musical heroes are able to do that with music. They really touch my heart. That's why I became a musician - to repay a debt of gratitude. I've never met them in person, but I'm grateful, so I'd like to do the same with my music."
The albums: Tokyo Tramps have released three albums: "Long Way From Home" (2000), "Bound for Glory" (2003) and "Lucky Jive Will Come Home on King's Road" (2006). The fourth will drop as soon as Fujii finishes the cover art.
The show: Tokyo Tramps play Church tomorrow, with Geezer and the Ten Foot Polecats.
The Noise (December 2007)
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The Tokyo Tramps have the unfortunate timing of having to play during game two of the World Series, ...The Tokyo Tramps have the unfortunate timing of having to play during game two of the World Series, which is on a TV in the back corner. Guitarist/ lead vocalist Satoru Nakagawa wears a Red Sox shirt for the occasion and brings "greetings from Fenway," in this case meaning the neighborhood where he lives. This three-piece, whose shtick is that they're all Japanese playing American bluesy roots rock, is just so much fun that I even stop watching the game for awhile. Satoru's spare Telecaster sound is perfect for this classic rootsy style, which they interpret so well. Bassist Yukiko Fujii's backing vocals are simultaneously bright and haunting. And Kosei Fukuyama is simply an amazing drummer who kind of reminds me of Charlie Watts with his confident coolness. Of course, these three have a sense of humor about their origins: they even have a song about chicken teriyaki.
ASIAN BOSTON (October 2007)
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The All American Approach Of The TOKYO TRAMPS There is no guarantee for success in the music indu...The All American Approach Of The TOKYO TRAMPS
There is no guarantee for success in the music industry and certainly no telling what genre of music will take off next. Bands come and go on the local Boston scene quicker than a magazine can write about them. But if you take a relative look at success, and gauge it as musicians doing just what they want to do without compromise, then the Japanese blues-rock band Tokyo Tramps would be considered very successful. Boston's "The Noise" appreciated their enthusiasm and described them as "sounding more American than most Americans." When a mix of Delta Blues, Bruce Springsteen and The Band are what you're aiming for, then this is a good thing.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Satoru Nakagawa came to America because it's the birthplace of rock'n'roll. Then he went a step beyond what many rockers do, he immersed in the culture of Louisiana, doing from town to town absorbing the mix of blues, rock'n'roll, country and gospel. Since 1996, Satoru has been in Boston honing his craft with a mix of all the music he loves in his band, Tokyo Tramps. His influences fall squarely in the genre of American rock, like the aforementioned bands as well as Creedence Clearwater Revival. The Japanese twist his band puts on the music makes it original. Although they sing in English, there are tell-tale hints of a cultural and musical experience from a life spent in Japan. The same would be true for say British bands that play "American" music; they put their own cultural spin however subtle.
Satoru and the band will not change the current trends, or be forced to sell out to a specific genre. This no compromise attitude can either lose or win fans over, and Satoru is hoping that it will be the latter. The road has been difficult and finding new Boston venues is challenging, and discovering local bands with like-minded ideals is difficult. The Tokyo Tramps have struck to their guns, refusing to go the easy route; no top 40 covers for them even those shows are easier to get and pay well.
Following their dreams is what this band's all about. Bass player Yukiko Fujii left a stressed-out overworked office job in Japan, and Satoru left behind gigs where you pay to play. They met their drummer Toshio Tanaka in the US; a jazz drummer by training, his amiable presence has helped them get gigs. They all enjoy the freedom of being musicians, and as difficult as the road is, it's their own journey. Satoru described the title reference to the phrase King's Road on his CD, "Lucky Jive Will Come Home On King's Road" as "the righteous road, the right path," and added that this was not meant in a religious sense, but certainly in a spiritual sense.
Their hope and optimism is catchy-"everyday is your lucky day, every road is shining gold."
Boston Globe (January 8, 2007)
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Into the Boss and the Blues Don't be fooled by the look - or name - of the TOKYO TRAMPS. This thr...Into the Boss and the Blues
Don't be fooled by the look - or name - of the TOKYO TRAMPS. This three-piece band from Japan plays as if its musicians were raised in the Deep South and brought up on Delta blues. The group, whose influences include Muddy Waters, named itself after a line in Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run." Led by former Berklee College of Music student Satoru Nakagawa.
Indie In-Tune Magazine (November 2006)
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When the nights begin to draw in and the gloom of the coming winter seems fast approaching those of ...When the nights begin to draw in and the gloom of the coming winter seems fast approaching those of us whose mood is affected by seasonal shifts have two choices: Go on Holiday or listen to good music.
Having spent nearly all my money on a holiday, which is completely out of the question, so I have taken to collecting all the feel-good music I can as my hobby in this gratefully received Indian summer. Now I have found the first song for my selection, Tokyo Tramps gBound for Glory.h
The band is a blues/rock three piece, exclusively Japanese, hailing from Boston. Their sound is driven by catchy; uplifting pop melodies, tasteful guitar work and it encompasses country and blues within a pop setup. The way Tokyo Tramps skip through different styles and moods with ease keep the listener entertained and their gObsession with Southern Deltah ties everything together, preventing it from sounding too disjointed.
The title track of their 2003 album, gBound for Gloryh is infinitely feel-good and a well constructed rock song. Coupled with a sing-along chorus and a screaming guitar solo this is a serious contender to be a classic rock anthem. Songs laced with guitar leads and catchy choruses are the norm especially in the faster tracks such as the country/rockabilly themed gDancin with Jive,h but they never begin to sound repetitive despite their simplicity.
A more sensual side to the band is shown on their slower songs, especially on the more recent tracks. gSomeday youfll come homeh combines searing guitar leads with laid back, soulful chords and searching lyrics. The song is a showcase for the talent within this band - simple and less produced then some of their other offerings, the vocal harmonies are a great touch and the end result is a very decent song. Two of the four songs on their recently released album gLucky Jive will Come Home on Kingfs Roadh are in keeping with this more mature and soothing style and while they cannot be added to my get-through-winter-music-collection I will try and make sure that, come spring, Ifll give them another listen!
Before I heard any of Tokyo Trampfs songs I read a review of them by Boston Globe in which their music is described as "An Eastern spin on the blues". This conjured up ridiculous images of a Japanese 3-piece dressing in Kimonos and trying to add traditional Japanese touches to the blues. Thankfully Tokyo Tramps are nothing like that and if there are any eastern musical influences within their music they must fit in very well with the music as they are far too subtle for me to notice. Maybe the reviewer at Boston Globe has a better ear than me, but I feel he/she has fallen into the trap of seeing an all-Japanese band and therefore assuming their sound will be like Japanese blues when really it is far from such gimmick laden crossovers.
A modern and pop take on traditional musical styles such as blues and country, the tramps from Tokyo were semi-finalists in the Boston Blues Society's Blues Challenge 2004 and have released three albums over the past six years.
Ifd definitely recommend giving them a listen, even if itfs just to hear gBound for Gloryh and get some inspiration.
Tokyo Tramps latest album is available from www.cdbaby.com/tokyotramps2
Tokyo Tramps are named after a Springsteen's song, "Born to Run" (tramps like us, baby we were born to run.)
The homeless in Tokyo often inhabit strange and smart boxes,
made of cardboard, wood, sometime bamboo,
sheltered by blue fabric sheets. They are usually seen as being far more respectful than tramps in the US or UK.
Intermixx Webzine (December 2005)
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TOP10 OF 2005 #2- TOKYO TRAMPS My next choice for Top Ten is a great CD entitled "Bound For Gl...TOP10 OF 2005
#2- TOKYO TRAMPS
My next choice for Top Ten is a great CD entitled "Bound For Glory." This disc was actually released in 2003 but since I have some catching up to do I'm including it. Besides, in the independent music market, the rules are not quite the same as the mainstream market. Artists often work a release for two or three years before a new disc is produced. The fact that this band's founder began his musical journey in Louisiana where he moved from town to town just to absorb the culture and the sounds of blues, country, gospel and rock'n'roll, may not make it surprising that they perform songs with a decidedly southern blues style. When you hear the skillfully produced results of all that gathering of influences and experiences you may not be surprised that he also attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. As you listen to how tight the band is and how professionally they perform you will not be surprised to hear that the other members also attended Berklee...But when you SEE the band... it may surprise you to hear this very well performed and very American style of music coming from three natives of Japan!
Satoru Nakagawa leads the Tokyo Tramps on vocals and guitar, while the lovely Yukiko Fujii backs him on vox and brings up a solid bass line. Drummer Toshio Tanaka keeps time and assists capably with harmony vocals. Satoru often triple-duties by playing a mouth harp while still strumming. Neither suffers from distraction and these demonstrations of his multi-talented abilities always bring applause. My favorite cut on "Bound..." is "Thibodaux, Louisiana" which can be heard at www.IndieGate.com/tokyotramps.
In the tune Satoru pays homage to the aforementioned experience with life in southern Louisiana. He humorously acknowledges his efforts to soak up all things American at an accelerated rate with the line "I hope my English gets better..."
The best part of a Tokyo Tramps performance is watching the reactions on the faces of the uninitiated audience members. When the band launches into their brand of rock, the expressions begin as mild surprise, then turn to hesitation and incredulity, to quickly melt away as the sounds and talent overwhelm. With all traces of ridiculous ethnic stereotypes quickly and completely swept away, the crowd soon finds common ground in their enjoyment of excellent music performed by a great band... of MUSICIANS. No other qualifying descriptions are needed. Visit the Tramps at... www.TokyoTramps.com
Metronome Magazine (October 2003)
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Music is truly a universal language. Take for example, the band, Tokyo Tramps; four Japanese kids wh...Music is truly a universal language. Take for example, the band, Tokyo Tramps; four Japanese kids who attended Berklee College and have two albums out of american based, original blues/rock. Singer-songwritr-guitarist Satoru Nakagawa is the heart and soul behind the Tokyo Tramps and he along with bassist Yukiko Fujii took time out to talk about coming to America and making their rootsy style of music.
METRONOME: Where are the Tokyo Tramps from?
SATORU NAKAGAWA: I am from Gunma, Japan. About two hours out of Tokyo. Yukiko is from Tokyo. Our guitarist Yoshi Hayata is from Hiroshima and our drummer Wataru Hirohara is from Tokyo.
METRONOME: Did any of you come from musical families?
SATORU: No, none of us.
METRONOME: So you four are pioneers?
SATORU: I would say so.
METRONOME: What brought you to Boston?
SATORU: Berklee College.
METRONOME: Did you all know each other in Japan?
SATORU: No. We all met at Berklee.
METRONOME: Did you all graduate from Berklee?
SATORU: Yes, we all graduated.
METRONOME: tell me how the Tokyo Tramps were started.
SATORU: I assembled some guys from my show. Back then we called ourselves The Cotton Fields Club Band. We got our name from a Leadbelly/Creedence Clearwater Revival song. Tokyo Tramps came later in 1999. An American friend suggested that we should take advantage of being Japanese like Los Lobos are all Mexican. Even though I’m not from Tokyo, it is the most known place in Japan. Tramps came from Bruce Springsteen's song "Born To Run." That's how we came up with Tokyo Tramps.
METRONOME: Do you all have the same love for the style of American music that you play?
SATORU: I'm the one that really likes this country roots stuff. The others are into 80s arena rock, Top 40 and hard rock.
METRONOME: What got you interested in American roots and blues music?
SATORU: The eighties were my time. I used to listen to it with my friends in Junior High in '83, '84 and '85 in Japan.
METRONOME: Does Japan have the radio stations that play just American music that you can listen to?
YUKIKO: Yes. I grew up listening to the radio network for American military people.
METRONOME: How did you dial into that?
YUKIKO: It's on normal FM.
METRONOME: So the Japanese public can listen to it too?
YUKIKO: Yes. Top 40... Casey Kasem and those kind of things. I'm not sure how far it reaches but in Tokyo, we can get it with no problem. Satoru never heard it, though.
SATORU: I never listened to the radio when I was in Japan. But back then, we had something like MTV. That was my main source.
METRONOME: Who are your biggest musical influences?
SATORU: In the beginning, it was Bruce Springsteen. Born In The USA era. When I heard that, I thought this is what I want to do.
METRONOME: Were you playing guitar at that time?
SATORU: That's how I started playing guitar.
METRONOME: How old were you when you started playing?
SATORU: I was fourteen.
YUKIKO: I started some time in Junior High... eighth or ninth grade. Actually I started practicing piano when I was seven years old. I practiced for ten years. Classical, not jazz.
METRONOME: Yukiko, what made you get into bass guitar?
YUKIKO: At that time, a couple of girls started a girls band and I wasn't really interested in playing drums, so I just picked up the bass guitar. I guess it's just part of my nature or something.
METRONOME: Who are your musical influences?
YUKIKO: American Top 40. At first, I was quite influenced by Queen, Journey and Styx. All those groups played in Japan.
METRONOME: Now that you have all graduated rom Berklee, do you work in the music business during the day as well as play in the band?
YUKIKO: Right now, no.
SATORU: No, None of us.
METRONOME: What was your major at Berklee?
METRONOME: So, Tokyo Tramps give you a good outlet for your songwriting..
METRONOME: What was the name of your first CD?
SATORU: Long Way From Home.
METRONOME: What year did you release it?
SATORU: In 2000. It had 7 originals on it.
METRONOME: What inspired you to write the music for Long Way From Home?
SATORU: Springsteen was definitely my main guy but I wanted to create my own identity. I knew that I couldn't be Springsteen. i had to find my own voice. Then I got into the Beatles and The Stones. That's how I got into the blues. I realized if I was going to play rock&roll I would have to listen to the blues. Of course if you listen to our CDs, you don't hear Springsteen at all. But, I like the hopes and dreams in his music.
METRONOME: Tell me some of the blues people you admire.
SATORU: Definitely B.B. King. I love Taj Mahal. He's my favorite guy.
METRONOME: Tell me about your new album Bound For Glory?
SATORU: It's the best blues rock album you hear in years.
It's got ten songs. I wrote nine songs by myself and I co-wrote one song with Yukiko.
METRONOME: How long did it take you to record Bound For Glory?
SATORU: It took a year to finish it (laughing). The recording part was not so bad. We spent a lot of time mixing. The difference between the two albums was the first one was our first effort. It was really the extension of demo. We only spent two or three days in the studio. But for Bound For Glory, I knew that I wanted to make a good CD. I wanted to take the time to polish it.
METRONOME: What made you go to record at Woolly Mammoth?
SATORU: Our original drummer Kaoru Suzuki went back to Japan, but he used to be in a band with Dave Westner from Woolly Mammoth Studio.
METRONOME: What kind of feedback are you receiving for your new album?
SATORU: Actually very good feedback.
METRONOME: Are you receiving good feedback in Japan as well as here in the states?
SATORU: Nobody in Japan knows us yet. We have not sent anything back to Japan. Only to a couple of friends. It’s funny, a couple of months ago, we were chosen to play at the House of Blues in Cambridge. Livingston Taylor was the MC and raved about us. He loved our songs. He said we would be really well received in Japan. But we never really thought about selling it in Japan.
METRONOME: I think you would do really well there...
SATORU: do you think so?
SATORU: I don't think we would be accepted like I would like to be. This is just what I think. I’ve always had that problem. But I never really thought about it. I would hope it would happen. Every time I go back to Japan, I bring CDs of American music but they don't mix too well with the environment. I've probably been here too long. In Japan, every time you turn on TV you hear Japanese music and it's so natural to me. It isn't just my own problem.
METRONOME: So what are Japanese kids listening to now in Japan?
SATORU: I have no idea. Hip-hop?
METRONOME: American Hip-hop?
SATORU: Yes, you must remember, Japan is the second largest market in the world. Whatever sells here, sells in Japan.
METRONOME: Tell me about some of the instruments that you play on your new album.
SATORU: I playa Fender '52 reissue Telecaster. My amp is a Fender Super 60. It's a tube amp that you rarely find. It was made in 1992. I'd love to get some nice vintage Fender amp but money is always the issue. Fender is really my sound. I've never played a Marshall. I've never given a thought about it.
METRONOME: Yukiko, what instrument do you play?
YUKIKO: I used to play in punk and heavy metal band so my gear is made for that. An Ibanez bass. But recently I got an old late 60's Gibbon Bass. It looks like an SG. I love the Heartache bass amp. I have a 4x10 cab and a HA3500. I also use a SWR2x10 cab.
METRONOME: What equipment does Yoshi and Wataru play?
SATORU: Yoshi plays a Gibbon ES-335 through a Fender Blues Junior. Wataru plays DW drums.
METRONOME: What clubs have you been playing locally?
SATORU: harper's Ferry, House of Blues, Midway Cafe, the Linwood Grille, Chitchat Lounge...
METRONOME: Do you play outside of Boston?
SATORU: We played once in New York City at The Lion's Den.
METRONOME: Have you played any festivals?
SATORU: Yes, we participated in The Cutting Edge Music Business Conference in New Orleans last summer. At the same time, we performed at the Midwest Music & Film Conference in Lexington, Kentucky.
METRONOME: What's in the future for Tokyo Tramps? Will you return home to Japan or will you stay here and keep making music?
SATORU: I have no plans to go back to Japan. I don't know if we will stay in Boston area but we would like to stay in the United States. I used to live in New Orleans... in Louisiana. That'll where my song 'Thibodaux, Louisiana" came from because I used to live there. I lived there for five years. In the beginning, I went there to go to college. I never planned to study music but I wasn't doing well in school. My last school was the University of New Orleans and I got suspended because my average was low. Then they told me I could not come back to school for one year. I was on a student visa so I had to maintain good status. A friend of mine told me about Berklee so I sent my application and they accepted me. It was not my original plan( to go to Berklee).
METRONOME: Yukiko, what brought you to Boston?
YUKIKO: I used to work as an editor in Japan. I graduated from a college in Japan and I was in the middle of business career. But I felt like I was working many hours for something I was not into. So I thought the United states might be the place to go. My parents were quite against me coming to the States, but I said please let me go. So I took a business program for three months in Nashville, Tennessee and then six months in Boston. Then I took a summer semester at Berklee. I also promised my parents that I would come back home. But once I got back in school, I asked then again, please let me graduate. Eventually I graduated and found a job and said, please let me stay longer. Nine years later, I’m still here.
METRONOME: Do yo have any plans to record another album?
SATORU: Actually I have a side project going on. I'm working with a friend of mine who went to Berklee. His name is Doug Reed. He lives in Philadelphia. Another friend of ours Sean Baillie that we went to Berklee with owns a studio in Toronto. He is Canadian. We are recording there. So Doug and I are writing five songs each and recording them.
METRONOME: What kind of music is it?
SATORU: It's more acoustic... country.
METRONOME: When will it be released?
SATORU: Probably next spring. It's going to take while. We used accordions, mandolins......., and pedal steel. It's something I always wanted to do.
METRONOME: Who is your favorite local ban/ Artist? and who is your favorite national band/artist?
SATORU: I don't know much about the local scene... we played with Lovewhip. They were really good. A good band! the problem is that when we play out we are always paired with a punk band or a heavy metal group. Nationally, I love the Band. Los Lobos and Taj Mahal...those guys are my main influence right now.
YUKIKO: I used to play in a Boston band called The Swallows and the band was between punk and pop. I haven't seen too many local bands since I've been with Tokyo Tramps. Personally I love Bon Jovi. When I was in Berklee, if I said I liked Bon Jovi, the teachers would say, Shame on you. I'm a big fan of Bon Jovi. I went to eleven shows this year in Japan, Connecticut, New Jersey & Boston. I'm not like a groupie. I like the guitar player, Richie Sambora. He's a very good guitar player. I went to an Etta James concert this year and it was amazing. She was sitting in the middle of the stage because her knee was bad. But I could only imagine, if she could move around on the stage what kind of show would she put on. i would like to learn more from her.
Boston Magazine (October 2002)
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Dis-Orient-ed Even Japanese Berklee students get the blues. In Boston, THE ALL-JAPANESE BLU...Dis-Orient-ed
Even Japanese Berklee students get the blues.
In Boston, THE ALL-JAPANESE BLUES OUTFIT TOKYO TRAMPS are perennial outsiders: Few of their countrymen in the area share their obsession with Americana, and local blues partisans tend to cast suspicious eye over anyone who writes fondly about the Mississippi Delta. In New Orleans, and Kentucky, however, where the band recently toured, it all makes perfect sense.
They really liked my song about living in Thibodaux, says Tokyo Tramps frontman Satoru Nakagawa. There's a line that says: " will get so lonely in December / I hope my English gets better / in Thibodaux, Louisiana."
Nakagawa feels he has as much right as anyone to create music in the style of American greats such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. After all, it was the Boss' performance in Japan during the 1988 Amnesty
International Tour that first inspired him. He suddenly knew he wanted to experience firsthand the roots of American music. "I wanted to see the Mississippi River and breathe the air Muddy Waters breathed," he explains.
Eventually, after unsuccessful stints at two universities in the South, Nakagawa wound up at the Berklee College of Music. There he formed Tokyo Tramps ( the name is taken from Springsteen's song "Born to Run"), with bassist Yukiko Fujii, guitarist Yoshi Hayata, and drummer Wataru Hirohara---all of them likewise smitten with American roots music. Knowing his accented voice could never approximate the growls of Dylan, Springsteen, or Waters, Nakagawa developed a smooth croon that sounds like a cross between Roy Orbison and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. His lyrics remain focused on his love for Louisiana area and the average person' daily battle for survival.
For Japanese musicians who originally came to the United States on student visas, that daily battle is not just for popular acceptance. "Our
ultimate goal,"says Nakagawa, who just received a work visa, "is to get
green cards for all of us."
( Tokyo Tramps---10/18. The Linwood, 69 Kilmarnock Street, Boston. Call
Boston Globe (May13, 2001)
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Satoru Nakagawa, singer/songwriter in the Japanese blues/R&B group Tokyo Tramps feels he has as much...Satoru Nakagawa, singer/songwriter in the Japanese blues/R&B group Tokyo Tramps feels he has as much right as anyone else to create music in the style of American greats like Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and his all-time favorite, Bruce Springsteen.
"I saw Springsteen in Japan during the 'Born In The USA' tour around 1988, and decided that I wanted to be him," said Nakagawa, 29. "After high school I failed my college entrance exams and moves to Louisiana. I wanted to see the Mississippi River and breathe the air that Muddy Waters had breathed."
Nakagawa eventually ended up at Berklee College of Music, where he met bassisit Yukiko Fujii,33. Both had to come to the college in the hopes of learning to play American music, unaware that the curriculum had such a strong jazz base.
While Nakagawa was from the small suburban town of Gunma, Fujii had grown up in Tokyo where she had listend to a lot of '80s area rock and '70s Top 40 music. They formed Tokyo Tramps with two fellow Berklee students, drummer Wataru Hirohara and lead guitarist Yoshi Hayata.
The Tramps part of the name was taken by Nakagawa from the "tramps like us" line in Springsteen's "Born To Run." Like the protagonists in the song, the members of Tokyo Tramps quickly became outcasts among the jazz technicians at their school, and although they found fans among some of their Japanese, Asian, Korean friends, their most enthusiastic response came at some of the bluesier clubs around town.
Nakagawa worked hard to find his own voice as a singer and a songwriter. Knowing he could never convincingly approximate Springsteen or Dylan's growl, he develop[ed a smoother approach, a gentle croon that sounds like a cross between Los Lobos and Roy Orbison. HIs songs such as "The Day You Cried" and "The Crow's Song" from the group's debut CD "Long Way From Home," show an unusual lyrical sensitivity that heads in a far different directions than the tough approach favored by his heroes.
While American music is big in Japan, both Nakagawa and Fujii agree that they could never have followed their dream of playing American music while they are still living there.
"I want to write and sing in English," says Nakgawa. "What is the point of singing in English to Japanese who don't understand English?"
TOKYO TRAMPS plays both originals and covers.
A whole night mix (Blues, Roots Rock, '70's, '80's and originals) sets or Energetic Original Set!!
Rollin' And Tumblin'
You Can Have My Husband
I Got My Mojo Workin
Night Time Is The Right Time
Never Make Your Move Too Soon
Further On Up The Road
Key to the Highway
Sugar Coated Love
Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean
Let Me Play With Your Poodle
Before You Accuse Me
Hoochie Coochie Man
Let Me Love You Baby
Shake Your Money Maker
Have You Ever Loved A Woman
Baby What You Want Me To Do
Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand
Sittin' On Top Of The World
Little By Little
She's About A Mover
Slippin' and Slidin'
The Voodoo Music
Big Legged Woman
I Won't Back Down
That'll Be The Day
Up On Cripple Creek
Blue Suade Shoes
Sultans Of Swing
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
I Heard it through the Grapevine
What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?
Dock of the Bay
People Get Ready
Dont Think Twice, It's All Right
It's All Over Now
Her Coms The Sun
I've Just Seen A Face
Reason To Believe
Down on the Corner
Going Down The Road Feelin Bad
Reason To Believe
Hey Pocky A-way
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?
Baby Please Come Home
Looking Out My Back Door
.............. and more!
Good Morning, Marietta
Come On Baby, Dry Your Tears
Me And My Guitar
Bound For Glory 2012
The Ghost Of Old Love
I'm Movin' On
Going Back To New Orleans
No Time Woman Blues
I'm A Country Boy
Papa's My Number One Fan
A Quiet Evening
Baby Let's Clean The House
Seize The Day
Holler And Shout
Nothing But A Blues
Dance Of Kindred Spirit
Light On The Inside
Everybody Wanna Be Loved
I'm A Roaring Lion
Warm My Heart
Down To The River
I'll Give You All My Best
Lonesome In My Hometown
Big Time Blues
Since I Got You
This Bird Must Fly
Owner Of Heart And Soul
Baby Please Come Home
'Til The End Of Time
Someday You Will Come Home
Dancing With Jive
Bound For Glory
Love's So Strong
Let's Play Again
Boogie Woogie To Be Free
Lift Your Head
Old River Road
The Crows Song
The Day You Cried
Long Way From Home
Set Me Free
Down on The Bayou
Key Of Love
Change My World
Can We Talk About It
........... and more!