Music Monday: Stars & Strawberries

StrawberryWhat would you do if you knew you would die young, and soon?

The monk had been running from a tiger and his mate, who were intent on making the monk his dinner. The monk did not see the cliff edge until it was too late, and so he fell, but managed to catch onto a root protruding out of the cliff face. Dangling just out of reach of the tiger—who clawed at him from above—the monk had a moment to take in his surroundings. Far below, where the cliff met the forest floor, the tiger’s mate snarled up at him, waiting for her dinner to fall. Then, a little mouse came out of a crack in the rocks near the root’s protrusion and began to gnaw on the only thing keeping the monk from plummeting to the forest floor—and the waiting tigress—below.

At this point, the monk noticed a strawberry growing from the root. With his free hand, he took the strawberry and slowly ate it, so he could relish in its taste.

“Life is sweet,” he concluded.

♦◊♦

In the spirit of Show-Your-Gratitude Month, I would like to highlight an artist whose work continues to serve as an inspiration to me. Seba Jun, more well-known as Nujabes, was a Japanese music producer and DJ. His life ended tragically in a car crash during the February of 2010. He was 36 years old. I would hear my first Nujabes beat less than a year later, as soundtrack to an anime called Samurai Champloo. Since then, the dreamlike, mostly downtempo atmospheres of Nujabes’s music has lulled me into many a mood, none of them unpleasant.

Here, give it a listen:

I know this sounds corny, but with some of Nujabes’s tracks (like this and “Aruarian Dance”), I cannot shake the impression that, somewhere, deep down, maybe not even in the front of his conscience, Seba Jun knew his life was going to end tragically short. There is a whimsy woven into his work, that has a danger of turning melancholic, or outright piteous. But it never seems to go there; the sampled vocal croons a warning in that old-timey 50’s accent, “Don’t count stars; you might stumble…” though it seems almost…playful in a way.

For the quality of the beat itself, the strings are just lively enough without being invasive that I could (and have) listen(ed) to this for an hour (add the words “homework mix” to your search if that interests you). The long, high violin note that fades in and out is like a reminder of the chill of night, warded off by the comforting warmth of the repeating melody. This is the sound of the quieter nights in college, where my friends and I would fret about the rest of our lives until we exhausted our fears and simply had to come to terms with the right now and say, “You know what? I’m okay. Tomorrow may be another story, but tonight I am okay.” In a word, Nujabes’s music offers comfort, and it seems to come from such a knowing place.

♦◊♦

I honestly don’t know how I would feel if someone came to me and was able to impart to me the knowledge that my life would come to end. We don’t like to think about our own mortality. However, did come to terms with it recently, and part of that meditation is what allowed me to restart writing again. I had to understand that my time on this Earth is finite…and I could choose to spend that time fretting about the end of the tunnel, or I could spend it making the trip count. I could seek the sweetness, the strawberries, in life. Nujabes’s music…is like the taste of strawberries.

So, thank you, Seba Jun. Domo arigatou, Nujabes. May your beats long continue what your heart began.

Rest in peace.

~

Photo: waferboard/Flickr

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