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Is This Japan’s Greatest Unknown Avant-Garde Folk Duo?

The Tenniscoats avante-garde folk duo. (Image: Greg Neate/Flickr)
The Tenniscoats avante-garde folk duo. (Image: Greg Neate/Flickr)

Tenniscoats is a Tokyo-based duo, Saya & Takashi Ueno, who make avant-garde folk music. They give playful and honest performances that are a delight to watch.

Saya is on keyboard and vocals, and Ueno plays guitar. The two met at university and have been making music together since the late 1990s, with up to 5 albums released under their name, and a handful of solo projects under different names. They are well known for collaborating with other musicians or sound artists.

Saya and Takashi Ueono. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Saya and Takashi Ueno. (Screenshot/YouTube)

To give you an insight of what they are like to work with, here is a quote about the duo from well-known Australian Composer Lawrence English:

“They have an outstanding ability to work music out of even the most unmusical objects and situations. When we were recording Temporacha (2009), I remember Saya setting up a kalimba on a rattling old heater. The motion of the vibrating kalimba brought the whole heater into vibration—it sounded incredible. It’s this kind of natural exploration that just impresses me so much.”

A Take Away Show. (Screenshot/YouTube)

A Take Away Show recording—Saya on melodica and vocals, with Takashi playing guitar. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The music is simple and light. Baibaba Bimba is a track that sounds like it could almost be a lullaby.The original recording used breathing as percussion.

What I enjoy about the Tenniscoats is their no nonsense DIY style and super playful tunes.

This clip featured is recorded by A Take Away Show, and we see them wandering around a local train station in Tokyo as a train goes past, a few people walk by and life just goes on as normal. It’s super nice and natural. 

And if you like what you hear, try another Tenniscoats song recorded in 1999 called Marline:

According to Takashi (the male half of the duo), when asked about the secret to their endless creativity, he replies the key ingredient is “coffee.”

Well, I hope Japan has good coffee, and we keep hearing music from the two.

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