Musical migrations: Cholos in Japan

Culture moves in mysterious ways. The Huffington Post this week ran a little feature on the presence of Mexican-American chicano or cholo culture, music, fashion and lifestlye in Japan. Its beginnings can apparently be traced to the emergence of lowrider culture (Lowrider magazine has over 70,000 readers in Japan!) and the lifestyle that comes with it. However, for the past few years the scene has grown to include homegrown chicano or cholo fashion, music and language.

One of the key names attributed to pushing Mexican-American music in Japan is Shin Miyata who as a youth spent time living in LA and became fascinated by chicano culture. Upon returning to Japan he set up his own record label Barrio Gold Records and began to release classic chicano albums from the Rampart Records back catalogue by the likes of Quetzal, El Chicano,  Little Willie G and more. This, combined with the strong lowrider scene in the country contributed to the emergence of a small but seemingly thriving Japanese chicano sub-culture.

In more recent times Japanese chicanos have sought inspiration from the cholo hip-hop scene, giving way to the emergence of chicano rap groups whose lyrics move between Spanglish and Japanese and who dress in stereotypical cholo style. As rapper Cuete Yeska said of the scene in Japan a while back:

Last night I was on myspace, there’s a guy named Ese Lil Night, he gave me a message saying that I cant wait for your CD to come out, all my vatos and all the hynas out here cant wait to see you in Japan, we got your back Cuete. Wow, when I read that, these guys were talking to me in my language. He was Chicanoed out! He had locs on, he had the clothing. Now, they look like eses more than I ever would have imagined, they just down with the music.

Another wonderfully strange cultural movement: from Mexican-American sub-culture to Japanese-Mexican-American sub-culture. To finish, not really chicano but a Japaenese version of Murder She Wrote riddim.


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