Soul Master's Cafe


Kagoshima has a varied nightlife scene with bars, restaurants, and clubs open late into the night. One of the mainstays of the bar and cafe scene is Soul Master’s Cafe – a funk and soul hot spot owned by veteran spinner of the wheels of steel DJ BOSS. We caught up with DJ BOSS to find out how he got into black music, why he can cook so well, and how he met the undisputed Godfather of Soul James Brown.

From Chef to DJ

‘My name is DJ BOSS. My real name is Kawauchi Shigenori. It’s a bit of an old fashioned name, but I was born in 1950. I was born on the island of Amami Oshima and I’m 71 years old now. I graduated high school in 1968 and left for Tokyo. I like cooking, and I wanted to be a chef. I went to Tokyo to do French cooking, but my dream was to eventually go to Paris, France and live there permanently. I’d have to marry a Parisienne girl to live there forever. So that was my goal, and I spent a long time cooking French food in Tokyo, you know working as a chef. It was a time when you couldn’t get a work visa, so I had to give up on going to France.’

‘When I started my cooking career I was really into and always had a fascination with black music. I went to discos where black people would gather and got to know the people, eventually becoming a DJ. In the afternoon I was a chef, at night a DJ. I guess I was an all-rounder. That was about 1970. I guess rather than a chef, I’ve been doing DJing uninterrupted all this time, this year makes it 51 years. Thinking about it, I’ve been doing it for long time, over half a century. So for 10 years or so I was a French chef in Tokyo and I’ve been DJing all the way through to today.’

The Wheels of Steel

‘When we started DJing it wasn’t like the setup we have now with two turntables and a mixer in the middle, we just had one turntable and a microphone, and would speak between songs. While we were speaking we’d change the record with one hand and when the record was set up we would drop the needle, the song would start, and we’d stop talking. That’s how we started DJing in Japan back in the day. It was really basic, but starting back then I’ve seen all the changes. Nowadays, young DJs have computers and CD systems. You can see the development of the culture over the years, but the basics are that you drop the needle and play the record. It’s the foundation, and it’s what we’ve been doing all along.’

‘I’m going to keep to the original way of doing things, you know with two turntables, a mixer, and a microphone, just like it was back in the day. We still use records, we still use analogue technology. I’m very particular about it, and it’s still the best sounding media there is – analogue records, vinyl. I’m saying that rich sound with real feeling can only be produced by vinyl. I think that way anyway, so that’s why I keep DJing.’

Soul Master’s Cafe

‘This place has been open for 12 years now, it’s called Soul Masters Cafe. It’s a soul bar, a café, we serve food as well. So we make really good food and provide some great sounding music for people to enjoy as well. That’s how it’s always been, since the 1960s all the way up to the present day, music by black people has always struck a chord with me. And so I was a bit like, I have to know the place where this music comes from in the United States. I went to America for nearly six months on an one-way ticket, arriving on the West coast and hitchhiking over to the East coast.’

‘I went to all kinds of places, did part time for a week or so and earned a bit of cash, and just kept heading East. My goal was to reach New York – Harlem, the Bronx, Queens. I wanted to feel for myself what the lives of black people living in America were like. At that time it wasn’t very safe, and the truth is that 70% to 80% of what I experienced wasn’t very pleasant. But as I started to get accepted into the black community, everyone was so warm and friendly, like family.’

‘Once I got my clothes stolen, and this boy comes along and asked me what happened. I told him, and he said come with me, so I went over to his house. He lent me some of his clothes and his mother cooked some food for me as well. That’s what we call soul food, and I’ve had the experience of eating it with tears in my eyes.’

The Godfather of Soul

‘I’m often asked by customers who my favourite artist is or which song I like the best, but I say I like them all! To me there is only one person who stands out above everyone else. That person’s name is James Brown. For me James Brown is on a completely different level to anyone else – completely different – he’s like a god. I’ve been fortunate enough to have met James Brown. I was with him three times when he came to Japan for concerts, drinking and eating together. I had the opportunity to go to the airport
to greet him and so on. ‘

‘He was a very strict person, but always very kind to us fans. I had a drink with him in the hotel lobby. He happened to be sitting near the window, and someone told me to have a drink. So there I was hands shaking and chewing on a Budweiser bottle. To me to be able to sit together with this god of music and feel the kindness in his heart. Being with a historic figure, the worldwide Godfather of Soul and being able to have a chat with him, eat some food, and have drink together the fact that I’ve been allowed to do that, it’s a treasure for me. Well that’s what happened anyway, and for me James Brown will always be on another level man.’

Music and Life

‘In the United States, I still think that racism exists. But people like Mr. Obama, having a black man as President, it shows things are changing a bit. But still I think there is racism and I hope that kind of discrimination is stamped out as soon as possible and I would be happy if the world is peaceful for everyone. Even now there are wars going on in Europe. It’s a terrible and sad state of affairs, and I hope for peace soon to make the world a better place. Music is something that, even when you’re going through a difficult time, it’s absolutely necessary to have. They say ‘No Music, No Life’. It expresses the human heart and mind, and influences how we think and live in many different ways.’

‘I want to use music for the people of Kagoshima, to help them chill out, to feel positive and energized. That’s really what I feel from the bottom of my heart. I’ve no idea if I’ve actually managed to do that or not. Even at this age, I still feel like I’m learning and developing as a person. So like saying ‘this is good enough’ or ‘I get it all’ from my point of view, in the world of music there isn’t an end, it just keeps going on and on…Always aiming for a higher level and letting people have more fun – that’s what I’m doing now.’


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