Showmanship. James Brown set the bar pretty high for most of us and made it look pretty easy while doing it, but it doesn’t come easy. The Godfather of Soul virtually defined showmanship for the 20th century. His bands were always dressed to the nines and danced together with tight, choreographed moves, while delivering the most irresistible in-your-face funk and soul of the century. The stage is about ownership. Once you step up there, it’s time to testify. Most bands get about an hour to deliver their sermon and it becomes the intersection of passion and artistry.
Enter Osaka Monaurail from Japan. Rolling nine-deep in matching suits, spinning trumpets, and a lead singer doing the Mashed Potato, they’re known as Japan’s premiere funk orchestra and have been burning up stages since 1992. If you want to get a taste of what a classic soul revue might have been like in the ’60s then check out this video for their song “(She’s A) Riptide.” The group is currently on an exclusive 3-city US tour with a stop in Washington, DC on October 31.
Osaka Monaurail’s frontman, keyboard player and bandleader Ryo Nakata talked with us about his band, his favorite artists, who he’d love to work with and what we can look forward to on their first ever show in Washington, DC at Tropicalia on Halloween with Black Masala.
Please tell us a bit about Osaka Monaurail and what you do?
Osaka Monaurail is a Japanese funk band. I don’t mean we play Japanese funk, but we are Japanese and we play funk! We got together in 1992. So, it’s been more than 22 years. We are currently a nine-piece band. And I am the lead singer in the group.
You’re on your first US tour, right? Does playing Washington, DC, aka “Chocolate City,” have some particular significance for you? It’s the home of so much jazz, soul, and rare groove. The venue where you’re playing, Tropicalia, is located near the U Street Corridor, Marvin Gaye’s old neighborhood and Duke Ellington’s childhood home.
Yes, this is our very first tour ever in the U.S., and I am very excited. It will be my first time visiting Washington, DC. I heard and read much about the U Street District, Howard University—of course Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack attended it. Go-go music, etc. But I think I haven’t studied enough. I gotta learn more. Oh, one more thing, Mr. Sir Joe Quarterman is from Washington, DC, and we played the same night a few years ago in England. His song “(I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind” is almost like a rare groove anthem. Is this song big in DC? His album is now available on CD for Japan on my label!