Red Book and Video Games: Yellow Magic Orchestra and Afro-Asian Futurism

Nov 6 9:00–10:30am
held via Zoom

Talk will be held via Zoom
Registration link will be posted shortly

Ohwada Toshiyuki (Professor, Faculty of Law, Keio University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2020-21)
Chair/discussant: Tomiko Yoda (Takashima Professor of Japanese Humanities, East Asian Languages & Civilizations Dept., Harvard University)

Afrika Bambaataa once stated that Yellow Magic Orchestra invented hip hop. Although his assertion is regarded as an overstatement, the music of the Japanese synth-pop group—founded in 1978 with its members Hosono Haruomi, Sakamoto Ryuichi and Takahashi Yukihiro—was indeed sampled by numerous hip hop musicians from Bambaataa himself to De La Soul. YMO was also known for its incorporation of Chinese images; the members were inspired by the performance of Beijing Central Orchestra and their stage costumes were called  “Red Mao suit” by the fans. This presentation examines the futuristic imagination and cultural negotiations of African Americans and Asians through the works of YMO. Transpacific dialogue on techno-orientalism and Afrofuturism will be explored in historical and political context, with reference to subcultures such as video game music—it was Hosono who first compiled and released an album of the genre—which would become an indispensable component of African American music.