Trip Report Ep016: The Rise of the Disco Samurai

For the past year I’ve been making playlists that have ended up becoming sonic journals of the emotions, experiences, and vibes I was feeling each month. Recently I decided to pick up a DJ controller and start turning them into actual mixes. I’ve decided to call this series Trip Report. August 2021’s Trip Report is Episode 16: The Rise of the Disco Samurai.

Love, loss, grieving, healing, wounding, zen. 

The idea for the Disco Samurai came about during the Four Tet DJ set at Nowadays—music and dancing has always acted as therapy for me, but it was especially needed this month. I finally decided to pick up a DJ controller and designate a more active hobby to my love of music to tell my truth and process my life. The persona of the Disco Samurai tied together the healing power of music and dancing with the mental steadfastness and clarity of samurai warriors. One major theme of this month has been the desire to be more unapologetic about my identity and contextualizing my position in the Filipino diaspora. This means doing what I can to de-colonize my brain and reconnect with precolonial indigenous ancestral culture. As any child of immigrants knows, being just one generation removed from your parents’ culture, living in a totally different country from where they grew up, is confusing. In certain spaces and places, my existence has felt invalidated by the intentional or unintentional pointing out of these cultural discrepancies. On a bigger scale, this has been happening to the Filipino people due to decades of colonial influence from Spain, the US, and other Asian countries. The amount of layers removed from that indigenous culture due to time, distance, and colonial erasure has thinned the throughline so much that it barely feels like it exists. This month, I’ve sought to strengthen that link through education, music, and community, finding people and content that also unapologetically celebrate identity and the connection to a pure, true self.

The Disco Samurai ended up manifesting as this narrative of an indigenous Filipino warrior captured by the Japanese, forced to fight as a samurai for his colonizers and eventually removed from his homeland during the (mythological?) 1582 Cagayan battles in the northern Philippines. The 1582 Cagayan battles were a vaguely recorded clash over metals trading between Spanish soldiers/sailors and Japanese/Chinese pirates(/maybe samurai?) in the northern Philippines. Despite being lost and far from his home, the Disco Samurai uses a connection to music to channel ancestral energy and power to cope with the existence of living in an environment that wasn’t made for him. In the same way this character uses soul to deal with the mismatched reality of living in an unfamiliar environment fighting for a cause he doesn’t believe in, I’ve applied this way of coping with life to the modern struggles of mental health, navigating major personal life changes, technological/information overload, and existing in a structurally unsustainable society. Music has been the way I’ve made any sense of the world, and there’s a comfort in knowing that it’s been doing the same for people since culture began. 

I wanted to include any little anecdotes of how these songs found me and came together to form a cohesive narrative in this mix, so check it out and let me know what you think! I’m really excited that I made the decision to allow myself to have a creative outlet that’s both fun and helps me process life, and I’m going to keep putting in the work to grow and get better.

1940’s Filipino WW2 Propoganda poster.
  1. Panoram – The Question | 00:00
    I found this EP while crate digging at Commend on Forsyth St for like $2. I was struck by the cover which features two people hugging in a sea of ferns. This song blew my mind and it felt like a great vibey intro for the more enigmatic themes of this mix.
  2. Madvillain – Great Day (Four Tet Remix) | 02:50
    RIP DOOM. After seeing Four Tet at Nowadays I rediscovered his remix album of Madvillain and loved the samurai-era sound of this one.
Depiction of Wokou Japanese pirates from the 1582 Cagayan battles.
  1. Yaeji – IN THE MIRROR 거울 | 05:35
    Yaeji represents the unapologetic celebration of identity more than any artist I know right now, and I was lucky enough to have the experience of seeing her perform at BRIC Brooklyn and then do a DJ set at Nowadays. Her performance of this song was incredible and made me feel like I was floating; the lyrics hit on a really personal level this month too.
  2. Harrison BDP – Shuto Expressway | 10:17
    I heard this song on one of Yaeji’s NTS radio shows, and the percussive elements were really fun to play with and practice mixing.
  3. Sofia Kourtesis – By Your Side | 11:36
    I must have heard this song on a random Spotify playlist, but I really respect how this artist uses house music as a medium of cultural storytelling from her home of Lima, Peru. Once again, unapologetic celebration of identity that just so happened to blend really well with Shuto Expressway.
Illustration of Lam-Ang, a pre-colonial Ilocano epic hero.
  1. Jayda G – All I Need (DJ-Kicks) | 15:23
    Jayda G is a major inspiration to me: for those who may not know, she got into DJing as a hobby while studying for a master’s in Environmental Management and is now a Grammy award winner. As someone who’s also been in the STEM field but has a deep connection to creativity, seeing what she’s done as an artist has validated my own motivation to get into DJing and really helped me with the idea of “allowing myself” to do it.
  2. International Computer System – Mojave | 19:45
    This song randomly came on Spotify autoplay, but it’s a relatively obscure Italo disco record with a technological spin and terrible search engine optimization. I love how bright and airy it is and how it incorporates more jungle-y/animal noises alongside the weird electronic sounds.
What I see in my mind when I listen to this music and meditate.
  1. Loner – Pagbabago | 24:00
    This is a killer house track from young up and comer from Manila, Loner (Lean Ordinario). The song is about accepting change, which has been a personally prevalent theme for me this month so it hit hard. It was also really important for me to include a Filipino artist who incorporates our culture by singing in Tagalog on a vibey, future-forward house song. 
  2. Night Tempo – Baby | 26:12
    This song is the start of the disco vibes; I found Night Tempo from their cool reworks of Japanese city pop songs and it fit the themes of the mix well with the Japanese influence.
  3. Lyn Inaizumi – Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There | 27:07
    This is the theme song from my favorite video game of all time, Persona 5. For those who don’t know, the general plot of Persona 5 is that a band of high school students awaken a mysterious power that allows them to enter the cognitive psyche of people and become vigilantes to steal malevolent intent from the hearts of adults. It’s a pretty anime plot but the themes and style of the game speaks to me more than any other work of art I’ve ever consumed, so including the disco-y title track was really fitting.
My favorite place in NYC, Nowadays.
  1. Loleatta Holloway – Love Sensation | 28:45
    This is a song I found while exploring the legendary NYC-disco DJ Larry Levan’s tracks he played at Paradise Garage. Her voice is incredible and inspires the soul connection that helps me process life.
  2. Glenda McLeod – No Stranger to Love | 33:48
    I randomly popped into Cityfun Shop in the East Village (band tee and record store) and the worker was playing a track off the compilation “80’s Funk Music Rare Tracks” called Cash Play by Yvette Cason, which I used in a previous mix. This song was also a standout from that compilation and it was fun using a loop of the intro as virtually its own instrument throughout Love Sensation.
Green, purple, and frog vibes are a major theme of this mix.
  1. Deee-Lite – Runaway | 36:42
    I bought a bunch of cassettes in bulk off a guy from Craigslist, and was browsing through them when the cover for the Deee-Lite album Infinity Within caught my eye. I was really taken by the very serious political and climate activism interwoven throughout this very silly sounding album. This band was way ahead of its time, and their story as NYC-based multi-identity (Japanese, Ukrainian, and LGBTQ) club kids that went on to collaborate with artists like Bootsy Collins and Q-Tip is a story that more people should know about.
  2. LSDXOXO – Sick Bitch (VTSS Mix) | 39:45
    I honestly just love this track and it was a good segue into the more carnal themes of this mix. This VTSS remix from HÖR Berlin added a level of drippy bass that was really satisfying.
Indigenous Filipino headhunter.
  1. Black Devil Disco Club – “H” Friend | 41:30
    My friend Emil recommended this track to me and I love how it adds a spookier sound while maintaining the sonic brightness of disco. The mischievous, sinister energy was cool to contrast against the earlier disco tracks.
  2. Kim Petras – Wrong Turn | 43:40
    This one goes out to my friend Valerio who put me on to this song. The dark synth wave sounded really cool against “H” Friend and the lyrics of being lost and amongst evil was a necessary part of building out some of the darker narrative of the mix.
  3. Ao Wu – My Name Edit | 46:08
    This was another track from Yaeji’s NTS radio show that totally blew my mind. It’s off a Chinese compilation called Club Shanzai Bootleg Compilation that has some absolutely ballistic tracks on it. It was a good song to represent the catharsis out of the darker tracks.
  4. Ultra Naté – Free | 49:21
    I found this song from its use as a sample in Ty Dolla $ign’s song Ego Death. I’ve been really feeling the garage house sound that originated from Paradise Garage, and it flowed really well with the previous and next songs.
Opening scene of my favorite childhood video game, Kingdom Hearts.
  1. Utada Hikaru – Simple & Clean -PLANITb Remix- | 51:18
    This song made my childhood. It’s the theme song for Kingdom Hearts, a trippy Japanese RPG video game series I grew up with that paired spiky-hair anime characters with classic Disney characters to fight against darkness using the power of friendship. I genuinely think this series helped define a lot of my values growing up, so the nostalgia factor was powerful and the music just happened to fit really well. 
  2. J.B. Banfi – Gang (For the Rock Industry) | 52:22
    I think this was on a Spotify playlist Four Tet made, but its richly textured cinematic electronic sound was a great lead up to the climax of the mix (and also my favorite part).
Badass indigenous Kalinga woman from the northern Philippines, taken from The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga.
  1. The Pharcyde – Passin’ Me By | 58:09
    I was on a bit of a 90’s hip hop kick and rediscovered this song. I think the production, lyricism and flow on this classic track speak for themselves.
  2. Disclosure, Channel Tres – Lavender | 1:00:43
    I got back into this song after seeing a Channel Tres DJ set and exploring some of his deeper catalog. Slowing this track down to beat match Passin’ Me By was a spontaneous experimentation decision, but it made the track sound soooooo cool. I love how the beat and Channel Tres’ rapping flow so well both sonically and lyrically with Passin’ Me By.
Depiction of Ravana carrying Sita away from the Vanara monkey race in the Hindu epic the Ramayana.
  1. Skrillex, Four Tet, Starrah – Butterflies | 1:07:30
    Chopping up the intro loop on this song just sounded incredibly sick to me. The Four Tet influence on this mix is major and I love the spiritual/exalted heavenly beat of this song allowing it to serve as the penultimate closer.
  2. Vince Staples – Summertime | 1:10:48
    This song, and Vince Staples’ music in general, captures the brutal, surreal, sweltering side of summer. The way this track sounds is kind of a reminder that struggle is never really over, but what matters is that we never stop trying to overcome it. It’s a beautiful, poetic track that ultimately captures everything I’ve been feeling this month in a closing track.

If you made it this far, thanks so much for reading and if any of this speaks to you let me know! I’m always looking for feedback, criticism, thoughts, and connection and knowing that the way I’ve expressed myself has impacted someone else is the only reason I’m putting any of this out. Moving forward I want to keep working on re-mixing the old playlists I’ve made over the past year and I can’t wait to continue exploring the possibilities of melding all of these different outlets and speak my truth. Peace!