I don’t recall exactly when I first heard a track by Japan’s house maestro Kagami, aka Takashi Yasumi. I do remember that it was right around the time I was discovering my love for Japanese house through the recordings of the Denki Groove supergroup and alumnus Takkyu Ishino, which would have made it right around the year 2000. My music production partner Ryan Harkness and I scoured the Internet searching for other sounds that were anything like the disco-infused filtered frequencies push on us by Ishino and crew. One night we stumbled upon a wild robot dance track called ‘Tokyo Disco Music All Night Long’ that shook everything we had taken for granted in house music and opened up our eyes to the possibility that Japanese producers may have been in possession of an entirely different perspective regarding what it took to make funk come alive on wax.
‘Tokyo Disco Music All Night Long’ was released by Kagami in 2001, and if Denki Groove had initiated me into the world of Japanese electronic dance music, it was Kagami who cemented what would become one of my biggest passions. It was through the exploration of Kagami’s catalog, that included such fascinating works as ‘The Repaired Sequencer,’ ‘Romantic Time Slip,’ and his absolutely amazing live performances at the Wire gigs that I would discover other artists such as DJ Tasaka, DJ Sharpnel and Yoji Biomehanika. Kagami also seriously informed the music that I was making with my partner at the time, as both of us started to consider crunchier and more rhythmically complex ways of using samples. Our DJ act also began to meld the French filter house we had been previously listening to with the Kagami sound, which injected fresh energy into our playlists and helped set us apart from most other DJs in Canada who had never even heard a single Japanese house track.
My love of Kagami culminated in a trip to Japan in May of 2009, when I was able to catch him perform a live set opening up for Miki Furukawa in Tokyo. The timing was fortuitous – I had not known in advance that Kagami had any shows scheduled in the city during my visit. Although it was a somewhat odd experience to see row upon row of young men and women sitting quietly and respectfully as they listened to his set – one of many differences between Japanese audiences and those I was accustomed to in North America – it was simply incredible to finally be in his presence and experience his DJing firsthand.
Takashi Yasumi passed away in May of this year. I only found out recently – there is almost no English-language news coverage of the Japanese house music scene, and he is virtually unknown in North America. The details of what happened to him are unclear, with a heart attack listed by most press sources as the cause of death. He was only 33 years old.
I had always dreamed of bringing Kagami to Montreal when I was actively promoting, wanting to celebrate his music by helping expand it to the worldwide audience he deserved. At the same time, I also knew that the chances of a successful Kagami show in North America were almost zero, given the relative scarcity of J-House fans on the continent. It would have been a vanity project, my gift to an artist who had already given me so much himself, without ever knowing it. Now, of course, it no longer matters. Takashi Yasumi will never see a crowd dance for him again, nor will he ever hear from my lips how important his music was to me. Because I was too shy that night in Tokyo to go up to the decks and introduce myself to one of my heroes.