People will tell you that the Japanese can’t do funky. Obviously, that’s a stereotype that’s been around too long. At the very least, Japanese are no less funky than white people, which may not be saying much, but if you hear someone say “Japanese folk just ain’t got the funk!”, play them some Zainichi Funk.
“Zainichi” means “resident in Japan, and Zainichi Funk’s music takes Japanese themes and motifs and funkifies them. Understanding the above–mentioned prejudice, however, they have fun with the concept. Leader Kenta Hamano, for instance, has all the JB moves down, but he doesn’t make any sort of claim to doing them well. His splits and dance steps are more like JL (Jerry Lewis) than JB, but he also adds stuff that’s completely his own, like this stuttery thing on tip toes. And while his singing isn’t going to give Bobby Byrd anything to worry about, he commands a charming vibrato that adds a bit of sassiness to his delivery. And we love his strawberry sherbet suit. He also does his patter in purposely bad English. “So, you wanna call and response?” he yelled. “Let’s call-and-response.” He then gave the audience an almost impossible tongue twister.
Jokes aside, though, the band is tough. During their afternoon set on the White Stage they sampled every brand of funk, from JB’s “Super Bad,” to funkified versions of kayokyoku (traditional Japanese pop). One song, a smooth R&B jamm called “Kyoto” trotted out all the Japanese streotypes in another call-and-response gambit. “Pokemon,” “Nintendo,” “ninja,” etc. The audience loved it at by the end of the 45-minute set the crowd had overflowed the borders of the venue. They know who’s got the funk.