Hole in the Wall: A Guide to Tokyo’s “Listening Bars” ~world kitchen BAOBAB~

Joe Yokomizo

world kitchen ~ BAOBAB

Kichijoji is a city in Tokyo that offers a well-rooted unique cultural scene that attracts core music fans. Among the bustling establishments is “world kitchen BAOBAB,” a music-lovers’ bar and an absolute carefree zone in its seventh year of operation. The bar hosts live music a few times a week presenting African music, reggae, Latin music, funk, and singer-songwriters.

The day I showed up to interview the owner was also a day of live music. The joint was packed with about 40 people enjoying music with a drink in one hand, and the atmosphere was pure peace and love.

BAOBAB offers a flow of music and space full of peace and love -even on the nights that they do not host events- and that goodness is supplied by vinyl records. These are not just any old vinyl: these are treasures of African, Latin and Caribbean music that Yosuke Baobabu, the owner himself, went to dig up in Africa and Central and South America.

The treasured records, found in every nook and cranny of the bar, are dug up by the owner Yosuke Baobabu who takes a month-long trip every year to go to their actual countries of origin. His adventures themselves are also intriguing. For example, the picture hanging on the left as you enter the bar is of records he dug up when he went to Benin in West Africa. Yes, he literary dug them up: excavated them from the ground!

Another story from seven years ago in Panama is also fascinating. Yosuke-san went to Panama City to go digging for records, and to his dismay, the shops had just been scoured through by other collectors. He gave up records and got into a taxi to go sightseeing, perhaps to the Panama Canal. The taxi driver says, “What’s wrong?” and Yosuke-san replies, “I came to find records, but there aren’t any…” The taxi driver claimed he owns many records. So off they went to the taxi driver’s home. Inside his garage were many boxes with mountains of naked 45s. The driver’s mother, it turns out, used to be a DJ.

It is very special to sip on a drink, hear his stories, and listen to the analog treasures he brought back from around the world.

The drink was starting to make me feel good, so I twisted Yosuke-san’s arm to play one of his recent favorites. The 45 he chose was SAYKO by an artist named BANA from Cabo Verde off the coast of West Africa.

Yes indeed. The title of the song is SAYKO which means “the very best” in Japanese. Supposedly, there used to be a tuna fishing company from Japan in Cabo Verde, and when the Japanese fishermen returned from their long time at sea, they would exclaim at the beauty of the island: “SAYKO!” This killer tune from Cabo Verde features this Japanese phrase in its chorus and even goes as far as saying, “SAYKO-DAYO!” (It’s the very best!)

Most songs I listened to at BAOBAB were new to me, but all of them were happy tunes that made me want to move my body. Really, people who don’t know this kind of joy are seriously missing out…

I highly recommend a night of pure indulgence: music with marvelous exotic dishes and cocktails and beers from around the world. The coriander ground chicken Mexican tacos rice and jerked chicken were superb, and the delicious beer I had went with it perfectly. I just wanted to burst into song right then and there exclaiming, “SAYKO!”

world kitchen BAOBAB

Kohara Building B1
2 Chome-4-6 Kichijōji Minamichō
Musashino-shi, Tōkyō-to 180-0003

HOURS: Open Everyday
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thur, Sun: 6pm - 1am
Fri, Sat, Japanese holidays: 6pm - 2am

Musical Genre: African, Latin, Caribbean, Reggae, Brazilian
Record Quantity: countless...
Approx. budget per person: 3,000 yen
Homepage: http://wk-baobab.com

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