Band Review

Reviewed by Lyle Sylvander

(Summer 2005 Issue)

Last month, I was lucky enough to have stumbled across a band called Gaijin a Go-Go.  The Brooklyn-based
group is the brainchild of Petra Hanson, a fashion designer who fused her interests in Japanese pop
culture with her affinity for swinging 60s pop music.  The result is a uniquely entertaining musical concept
that manages to straddle both cultures while having fun in the process.  With such tongue-in-cheek song
titles as Wasabi Man (Moog Power) and Foreign Barbaria , Petra and company let us know that they are out
to have a good time.

European pop music (especially British and French) spawned a number of Japanese bands in the 1960s
and Gaijin a Go-Go plays on this tradition.  Even though only one of Gaijin’s members is Japanese (guitarist
Yuji Horibe, a.k.a. “Kinki Pajamamoto”), they have all adopted Japanese personas.  Bass guitarist Sanford
Santacroce is “Saiko Mikan”, keyboardist Catherine Craney is “Mikasa S. Sukasa”, drummer John Young is
“Tatami Matt” and lead singer Petra is “Kiku Kimonalisa”.  This adds an extra element of cultural confusion
as they are not merely Westerners impersonating Japanese but Westerners who are impersonating
Japanese who are impersonating Westerners.  Or, by adding a dash of Austin Powers-ish time travel to the
mix, 21st Century American musicians performing as 1960s musicians performing as 1960s European
musicians.  This retro-fusion musical concept works well with the lyrics, which poke fun at culture shock
and cultural faux pas.  For instance, in Foreign Barbarian, they sing “When no means yes and yes means
no/when the light says stop … gaijin go/Whoops forgot to duck ‘cause the ceilings are low!”  The lyrics are
best when they erupt into such playful cultural collision.

Originally intended to be merely “silly, with style”, Gaijin a Go-Go has grown beyond Petra’s initial ambition.
After a year-long stint teaching and modeling in Tokyo, Petra returned to the US and created the band as a
hobby.  She sent a few demo tapes to friends and the tapes somehow ended up on the desks of some Sony
executives.  Sony signed Gaijin after seeing them perform in Williamsburg and released the CD Happy-55-
Luck, which is a great introduction to their work.

Purchasing information, as well as future performance dates, can be found on the band’s official website

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