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The Show Goes On…line: WONK (2017)

Bending genres and baring their soul


Published: 5 Jun 2020

Time taken : >15mins

Experimental soul quartet WONK comes to Offstage with a heady blend of beat-driven instrumentals, sultry neo-soul and pop-tinged acid jazz that positions them as “the vanguard of Japan’s black music scene”. 

The Tokyo-based outfit served up tracks from their three studio albums, Castor and Pollux, both released in 2017 and Sphere, which won the Best Jazz Album title at Japan’s 9th CD Shop Awards in 2016. Moving fluidly between musical styles, the group pulled off a fertile fusion of sounds that not only earned them a following among younger listeners but also led to coveted spots at the Tokyo Jazz Festival, Summer Sonic Festival and the Blue Note Jazz Festival held annually in New York.  

Half of a soul and jazz double bill with Singapore group The Steve McQueens, WONK performed live at Esplanade Annexe Studio on 15 December 2017. 

WONK is made up of Kan Inoue (bass), Hikaru Arata (percussion), Ayatake Ezaki (keyboard) and Kento Nagatsuka (vocals). Formed in 2013, they have released three albums through their own Epistroph label. The group has worked with well-known Japanese artists such as Shingo Katori (of pop idol group SMAP), m-flo and DATS while appearing on the records of Ronin Arkestra and José James. "WONK" is a riff on jazz legend Thelonious Monk's last name. 

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