Embrace the unconventional with Utena Kobayashi | Music
“When I left college, I felt that the steel pan would give me opportunities,” Utena Kobayashi recalls. “For me, it just wasn’t fun to study classical music and play it with others like a disciplined army. I realized I just love listening to classical music – I still do now, ”she said. Metropolis with a laugh.
“Unconventional” is an apt adjective for Kobayashi. Everything from her lifestyle choices to the kind of music she plays and the red shock of the hair she sports on meeting Metropolis all show that she is not afraid to stand out, or that she is not afraid to embrace her own path in life. And, like his first album 6 routes suggests that this “path” can take the form of various paths and lead you in many unexpected directions.
Born in Nagano, Japan, Kobayashi’s decision to drop out of her music college in Kanagawa and pursue a career playing the steel pan set her apart from the masses of other Japanese students she saw around her. To many, it seemed like a risky choice she was making.
However, Kobayashi had a secret weapon to succeed: the steel pan. So far, she has certainly reaped the success of her skill with the instrument, and has already joined a host of projects from various Japanese musicians who are the most fashionable musicians in their genre, such as the independent group DAN, rapper. CHILD FRESINO and the Shuta Hasunuma Philharmonic Orchestra. “The steel pan is a Caribbean instrument meant to provide warm sounds,” she explains, “but working with these artists has helped me establish my own style.”
In person, Kobayashi is more affable and warmth than the cool, dark character you imagine listening to his debut album. 6 routes. The album follows the last three EPs (Fenghuang, The darkest time and Pylon), and was released on March 31, 2021. Each EP’s theme was part of a larger narrative, telling the story of a protagonist who travels between two planets with different timelines in search of the meaning of life.
Does it look big? It does, and Kobayashi not only created the whole story and designed the art book to accompany the EPs, but also produced all of the music itself. At its core, her much anticipated album is about celebrating life. “Life can be difficult sometimes,” she says. “Sometimes we get pulled into the negative even though we want to stay positive. 6 routes may seem too dark for celebration, but life goes on after all even if shit happens.
The album therefore focuses on this courage that we need to keep moving forward regardless of what life has in store for us. “We are standing here at this point in life after all the challenges that we have overcome.”
The art book played an important role in shaping this story. “I had to tell the painter everything exactly as in my mind, for example at what angle the sun goes, where the shadow goes or how long a tree stalk is,” she continues. “I didn’t even think about it because it was just an abstract image in my head. But I realized that my perspective was mine and that is not how other people see the world. Everyone has their own.
“There are still so many things and people around me that I hadn’t paid attention to before. I thought the process of getting to know these people or learning new things was what could make our life fulfilling, rather than aiming higher by competing with other people. Because you can’t live alone. It is important to widen your circle of relationships with others. “
Kobayashi mainly plays the steel pan, but in her solo projects she also mixes with other instruments. The impactful opening track of 6 routes begins with Kobayashi’s soft, choral voice, which creates a tense and sacred atmosphere that continues throughout the album.
“My young self was obsessed with the Stanley Kubrick film ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. This scene where Tom Cruise is surrounded by a lot of masked people in the house has always been my favorite. The music was scary and fascinating at the same time.
“I really liked Skrillex once and I love EDM. It feels so free and different from the classical music I was learning in school, ”she says. “I think EDM is the modern take on early music in the sense that people come together and they boil together in sound. The only difference is whether people get together for a bonfire or a big music festival. “
Even if no show has yet been announced to feature Kobayashi’s album due to the coronavirus, she is positive about the future of her music. “I have just bought an Irish harp which I am very excited to learn to play. I wonder what this new instrument will bring to my life? ”
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