Angie Lin of Pure Person Press, Planet Q (Kyoko Takenaka, Tomoki Sanders), Irene Tang
Kyoko Takenaka is the type of friend who is always feeding you, from making onigiri in 2020 at my temporary home in Big Bear, CA, to ordering Chinese takeout in Pasadena two years later while listening to a demo of Planet Q, a new album they had just recorded with their friend Tomoki Sanders. Tomoki and Kyoko met during the pandemic in Koenji, Japan – a strange and fateful occurrence. Shocked the other even existed, they bonded over being Japanese-American, queer, and far from home. It made sense that “home” became their connection. Their time in Japan marked the beginning of a beautiful musical journey together.
Planet Q combines the best of both Kyoko and Tomoki’s worlds. Kyoko’s poetic nature, sweet voice and understanding of life through butoh and meditation meld perfectly with Tomoki’s child-like spontaneity and the power of their saxophone (played like an extension to their very soul!) Planet Q has created a new sound without trying to be “avant.” The music has the intensity of New York Jazz, the swag of the LA beat scene and the spirit of Japanese folk. I’ve always held on to the philosophy that the best art encompasses the past, the present and the future — this album balances all three with ease.This is music that your Japanese grandmother and little kid cousin can listen to together and both leave with a beautiful impression.
Listening to Planet Q and working on this album with Kyoko and Tomoki has helped me define a sense of “home.” “Home” is something I’ve yearned for ever since I lost my mother in 2018. Since her death I’ve moved from place to place and have struggled with feeling like I belong anywhere. When you’re lonely, nothing feels like home. When you’re at peace, everything can. Planet Q is a haven for those searching for a place to land — when home is not concrete it can become a sound.
My Tender, My Sweet, Loving Home
In just the past three years, Kyoko Takenaka and Tomoki Sanders have called over 20 different places “home.”
These two musicians are incredibly comfortable in the in-between, which is why their music is so grounding. It is with great intention that their first album PLANET Q opens with “My Tender, My Sweet, My Loving Home”
The track begins with the ring of a bell, a meditative note from Takenaka, and then opens into a lush Saxophone solo from Sanders. The notes hold deep emotion – the song is an homage to “Let us go into the House of the Lord,” a musical piece by Sanders’ late father Pharoah Sanders.
“My Tender, My Sweet is a tribute to his metaphysical and galactic sounds that grounded me so much…Every intention I put into the style of music or energy, it’s coming from him somehow – I am but a continuation of his DNA and yet I am in a completely different generation and a different time; I match his point of view is in spirituality and in the way we raise the level of self-consciousness.” – Tomoki Sanders
Formed from a guided meditation session, “My Tender, My Sweet, My Loving Home” is a song of healing. It is how Takenaka and Sanders establish a home in every city. When they perform together live, it is also the first song they play. It reminds audiences: you are exactly where you need to be.
With a full stomach, you can accomplish anything. Planet Q was recorded in just one week in Takenaka’s New York city apartment. While Tomoki jammed on mixing songs in the living room, Takenaka would give creative feedback while cooking Japanese food in the kitchen. With their stomachs full and their spirits high, the two were able to create cozy tracks like “Rice Cooker”
“Rice Cooker” is the most playful track on the album. Sanders samples the sounds of rice and boiling water. The title is also a playful jab at their mixed Japanese and American culture.
To Kyoko, this song is their study of Thich Nhat Hanh’s philosophy of “inter-being”. It is a track that teaches us how to embody the present through the point of view of rice:
“Step 1: Acknowledge inter-being (Thich Nhat Hanh)!
You are the single grain of rice, all the uncooked and eaten rice, the water, the cooker, the cookers / chefs, the sun light, the shade, the plant you feed with this rinsed water, rinse, feed, and give gratitude! Oh! What a life!
Step 2: Let the rice settle (upcycle murky waters): See clarity through stillness (imagining your thoughts and emotions separating from the rice, as water separates from the rice before its cooked).
Step 3: Be like water, be water. (Bruce Lee). Flow! Let go of the individualism of me, me, me, me, me (me = a single grain of rice) enjoy the transformation in becoming your most nutritious and now state!” – Kyoko Takenaka
During the soundcheck for the Planet Q release show, a rice cooker was quietly steaming in the back. Takenaka had made takikomi gohan or “mixed rice” for the staff and crew. The rice cooker was chock full of healthy ingredients like gobo, konnyaku, seaweed and mushrooms. It was a fragrant and nourishing dish – Takenaka even used the rice water to water the plants outside. This is a song and an album that is meant to help you grow.