DJ Pippi & Willie Graff / The First Time / Archipelago Records

Takeo Toyama sadly passed away in July. I only had the pleasure of meeting him once, when he guested at our party in Harajuku, under the moniker of DJ Mizuki. He subsequently submitted a mix for my weekly FM radio show, and I got to ask him a few questions – which is when I discovered that he’d been DJing for over 30 years. He was an older fellow, but he was still way, way, too young. 

Takeo`s first paid gigs were in Roppongi, in a club called Pasha – a palm-treed joint christened and styled after the famous Spanish nightlife Institution. Something of a successful businessman, he upped sticks for Okinawa, where he, amongst other things, ran his own Funktion One-fitted club – Red Room – and organized events, such as the “Balearic Weekend”, held at the beachside Depot Island. He told me that, compared to the capital, Okinawa provided greater personal space, and closer contact with nature. 

A self-confessed “synth-nerd” Takeo started making music in around 2014. Teaming up with vocalist Satoko Ishimine, and bringing in experienced session men, such as Tadashi Ueda. Sparing no expense – no samples were used – and it showed. After being booked to play Red Room, Max Essa gave the outfit a name – the Okinawa Delays. Both Max and Phil Mison delivered dynamite remixes of their spellbinding spin on the traditional folk song, Nariyama Ayagu, and Paul Murphy picked up the package for Claremont 56. The resulting 10” turned out to be one of the label`s biggest, best ever, sellers. 

Takeo was a White Isle veteran, spending most summers hanging out at Pike`s. Here he met legends like DJ Pippi, Leo Mas, and Willie Graff, whose talents he would later employ. He also met Kenneth Bager, who signed the OD`s next tune, a cover of Neil Young’s Lotta Love, for Music For Dreams. The record rounded off by mixes from Willie, Phil, and Psychemagik. 

Takeo was effectively carefully creating his own balearic network – making connections and, pre-pandemic, inviting visiting luminaries – such as Paul, Phil and Faze Action`s Robin Lee – to Okinawa to play. Consequently building a lively local scene, and inspiring a fresh generation of artists and DJs. It was Takeo who introduced me to Mai Fujinoya AKA Yamp Kolt – who later contributed one of the standouts on 2020`s Claremont Editions One comp. 2020 also saw Takeo launch his own label, Archipelago. Max, again, together with Leo, came up with the the name, and respectively they co-produced and remixed the debut single, I Can`t Sleep, with Takeo seizing the opportunity to pull Pete Herbert into his growing cast of co-conspirators. 

The same year Takeo and Satoko took a sublime swing at the Dusty Springfield staple, Just A Little Lovin` – a musical missive that included an effervescent Seahawks extension. 

Just last March, Takeo further expanded his perfect beach sunset soundtrack reach with an E.P. – La Musica – from Luca Averna and Ale Doretto, the Residentes Balearicos – now calling on Robin`s Rudy’s Midnight Machine and Chris Coco for the reworks. 

This month sees Archipelago, tragically, posthumously release DJ Pippi and Willie Graff`s Brazilian-flavoured remake of Ewan McColl`s The First Time*. The pair collaborating with vocalist Clarita De Quiroz to convert the epic song of love and longing into a soft, slow, seaside samba. Surrounding the breathless chanteuse with Paco Fernandez` virtuoso flamenco picking, live jazzy bass, cool electric keys, and loose congas. Completing the picture with a classy arrangement of piano and swooning, romantic strings – imagine Arthur Verocai relocated to Hostel La Torre. Cantoma craft a more mid-tempo mover, opening with the congas and piano, before adding a more forceful 4 / 4, and gradually building to a crazy cowbell-ed climax. Afro / Cosmic scene veteran Roberto Lodola raises the temperature a tad, and adds a smokey Mediterranean sax. His Instrumental Mix refocuses on Paco`s guitar, and reveals previously hidden details – such as harmonic Hammond B3 flashes. In the wake of Takeo`s painful premature passing, the track has become a tribute of sorts, and the lyrics taken on additional melancholy, but each of Roberto`s readings feature soloing synths, whose fusion flights lift the tune to somewhere truly celebratory. Takeo Toyama Rest In Peace. 

willie and pippi the first time Front A

DJ Pippi & Willie Graff`s The First Time will be released on Archipelago Records on September 24th. The best place to currently listen, and pre-order, is over at Juno. 

*There have been countless covers of this timeless song, but I know that Joanna Law`s version is a particular favourite of Pippi`s, and that he considers it a balearic classic. 

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