Photo by Yasuyuki Takeo
In the Okinawan dialect “Hifana” means “a flower in the south or southern winds,” but in regards to the two-person band with the same name, it might as well mean “musical conundrum.”
HIFANA bandmates Juicy (Jun Miyata) and KEIZO (Keizo Fukuda) deliver sounds both playful and rhythmic, delivering a perfect give-and-go combination of hip-hop and snippets of found sounds crammed into what they call a “full manual break beats” unit. Their experiments with mixing and scratching audio and video into their sets have brought them acclaim and, recently, gigs around the globe. They played their first international show at Cannes where Nike set up a VIP lounge for sponsored skateboard pros, drained the pool, and brought skateable ramps to spice up the party. HIFANA rocked the house, playing from the bottom of the empty pool, mixing live captured sounds of skaters grinding rails.
As analog percussionists, they admit that when they started playing together around 1997, they could “barely program a VCR,” but upon realizing that one could play the Akai MPC (Music Production Center, a professional grade digital audio sampler and MIDI sequencer rolled into one) “by just pounding buttons,” they were drawn to it. The device rounded out their percussion-based ensemble nicely, providing equal parts “drums, bass, and even melody.”
Another instrument the group can’t live without is the asalato, a Ghanaian percussion toy made of gourds. “The asalato has all we need: music and tricks. We always have an asalato playing on the last track in all our albums. And it’s so portable; if you have a layover at an airport you’d say ‘Ah, I have to wait for two hours’ but if you have an asalato with you you’d say ‘Yes! I got two hours to practice this trick!’ (Laughter.) This instrument is the core of HIFANA.”
The duo often they find themselves collaborating with turntablist and former DMC World Champion DJ Kentaro, who comes armed with equipment enabling them to “scratch” video in real time. Various incarnations of their quarterly parties have been filmed and made into a DVD, Zamurai TV. Watch for that and their Channel-H DVD, out now on W+K Labs.