‘In Focus?’ paved me a route around stress and evoked play and party, but never got as stale as a week of straight boozing.
8.7 / 10.0
Fun fact: Shugo Tokumaru has used over 100 traditional and non-traditional instruments in his recordings. Not only can he play so many instruments, but he also plays them well; he is a single-man orchestra. Now, his voice should suck because of this versatility, right?
Nope. His voice is gentle, smooth, and inviting; I want to sing along in Japanese with him. Oh, does a foreign language dissuade you from listening? “I can’t understand his lyrics, man!” Do not fret. You have two viable options: learn Japanese, or appreciate the voice as another instrument. I’ve adopted both, and with a few years of learning Japanese under my belt, I can assure you of one thing — I don’t understand everything he says, but from what I do understand, Tokumaru-san’s cheerful tones and playful melodies complement his mature lyrics in a very strange way.
In the song “Katachi,” which means ‘form,’ Tokumaru-san speaks about Koens, Zen Buddhist mind-puzzles used to stretch the limits of one’s reasoning and bring one to enlightenment by means of frustration, acceptance, and triumph in seeing the true form of all things. He urges listeners to maintain the ‘michi,’ or path, if they can wait before they give up on their goal. I infer the rest of his songs maintain the same juxtaposition: playfulness against the supposed ‘seriousness’ of discipline and arduous efforts of the lyrics.
Of course, this may just be conflicting themes to a Westerner, as many Buddhists see the quest to see reality, to put it In Focus as a fun joke that shouldn’t be stressed. In fact, stress inhibits the path. And In Focus? paved me a route around stress and evoked play and party, but never got as stale as a week of straight boozing. Tokumaru-san doesn’t strike me as a “Best of 2013” artist, either, and I don’t think that’s his goal. I plan to never take his music seriously in the best way possible, and also take it more seriously than any other artist in the best way possible. Does that seem stupid or contradictory? It should. Try out the Koen for yourself:
“Can you both love something more than anything else and hate that same thing more than anything else?”
Have fun. And to Tokumaru-san, I say
Purchase: Shugo Tokumaru – In Focus?