Saturday, February 14, 2009

Global funk connections: Toshi Kubota

As a devotee of the funk with an interest in different cultures, I’m always keen to check out how those distinctively black-diaspora music styles that I love (soul, jazz, hip-hop, funk, reggae) are interpreted by the artists from different communities and parts of the world.

In the first in a series of posts I’m doing on funky music from around the globe, we check out Japanese soul artist Toshinobu Kubota, who has also released material under the names Toshi Kubota and more recently just Toshi. A big star in his native land, where his early music was more in the standard ballad-heavy J-Pop vein, Toshi later decamped to the US to search for that elusive English-language market. Now working in a more neo-soul style, he has collaborated with artists such as The Roots and J-Dilla.

Musically his songs compare well to his American neo-soul peers – think Musiq Souldchild and Eric Benet. Toshi is a good singer although his slightly accented vocal style occasionally jars with me. But a good song is a good song. Check out “Breaking Through” and The Roots’ mix of “Nothing But Your Love”, below.

Or for a taste of some vintage Japanese-language Toshi, check out “Groovin’” from way back in 1987. It’s a solid slab of 80s funk groove.

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