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Musicians have advantage in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2001-06-08

Jason Melton, a guitarist and vocalist with rock group Zero Faith is also one of the key persons working hard to establish a bridge over the gap between American and Japanese communities. He helps to exchange music and friendships between American and Okinawan musicians, both young and old. He says "Festivals like the 'Peaceful Love' have helped to lay the foundation for American and Okinawan bands to explore music together. That is why you can now often find these bands playing shows together. This is a concept that I found very satisfying and have tried to encourage."

There's always room for improvement, Melton says. "I would like to see more American bands here, because American musicians are not as well represented in the scene as they once were. In the late '90s there were several strong, exciting and popular bands and I believe that added more interest to the overall music scene.

"I was quite impressed with Okinawan Music, especially in Okinawa City where I first encountered it. I felt that the younger Okinawan bands had an energy and honesty in their music that was exciting to watch. These were bands that were technically and emotionally delivering music that was every bit as good if not better that bands I had seen back in the States.

"I aspired to make music that would be accepted and respected on the same level as these bands, a goal toward which I am still happily working."

Melton believes that good communication is the key, and here musicians are at advantage. "The most important thing to bridge the gap between American and Japanese in the Okinawa music scene is obviously communication. The great thing is that musicians can communicate without speaking a word, so we've got a great advantage right there! I try to help on several levels. On the personal level, I try to help and encourage newer musicians with what knowledge and experience I may have that is applicable. On a band level, Zero Faith plays with a lot of Okinawan and Japanese bands. On a business level, I book bands for The Hideaway on Gate 2 Street, and I try to put on shows with American and Okinawan bands every month. I also am working on creating profiles of local bands at www.orock.com.

Melton thinks that the level of musicianship of early "Okinawan Rock", as personified by bands like Murasaki and Condition Green is superb, and the themes of the songs are honest and heartfelt. He says that "You can see these ideas at work in almost every young Okinawan band on island, each one trying to carve out an individual niche of music that speaks to themselves and others, as well as entertain."

He also strongly believes in the future of rock'n roll in Okinawa. "Certainly, the first generation Okinawan rock bands showed that this could be done and that it could be personally satisfying. I see great things coming from the Okinawan rock scene. There are so many exciting bands playing so many different styles of music, things can only continue to grow.

One of the future projects that has been on the drawing board is called the "Music Town Project in Okinawa City." Melton welcomes the project but sees also some trouble. "As a musician and someone who is involved in the music scene for some time I would love to see the Music Town project go through and be a great success. I think the difficulty comes from trying to balance what needs to be done with what can be done and with what people are willing to do. If you can get all three together, you are guaranteed success. Unfortunately, in the real world, it is rarely that easy," Melton says. He sees a serious need for cooperation. "The best thing Okinawa City can do to help the Music Town Project is to get input from musicians. They are the ones that know what is needed. If Okinawa City can take the experience of the older musicians along with the ideas and desires of the younger players and incorporate them into a plan acceptable to Koza residents and businesses, they will go a long way to ensuring success," Melton explains. "I'd just like to interject that this is a two-way effort, so for every one thing I may be doing, there are a dozen efforts being made by Okinawan musicians. It is only through many people's contributions on every side that progress is made.

"There is something out there for everyone, and anyone who would like to help or just find out more information is welcomed to contact me through email at jason@orock.com," Melton concludes.

Jason Melton with Zero Faith will appear June 16 on stage for an event called 'Punch Drinker' with other five live bands including Suppon, Head Job, Pumpkin and Limit Of Destroy at Club D-Set in Naha starting 7 p.m. Tickets cost 800 in advance and 1,200 at door.

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