Traditional Japanese instruments meet modern synths in a culturally immersive experience.

Pep Magic, a duo which is well-known for their ability to tell stories created the soundtrack for the animated Netflix series “Oni: Thunder God’s Tale”. The tale is based on Japanese folklore , and is about Onari the girl who is independent living among mythical creatures and gods in the mountains of Mount Kamigami. Naridon, her father is present, and wields the power of his Taiko (Japanese “drum”) Johnston as well as Roberts collaborated along with Daisuke Tsutsumi who is the founder of Oni. The result was that the visual and musical ideas to be a source of inspiration and enhance the other.

Tsutsumi tells Variety that images are viewed like music. She also focuses on the importance of the fact that Roberts as well as Johnston both are filmmakers and composers. They blend traditional Japanese instruments with modern-day synths to create a musically driven score. Johnston states “Our primary concern at the time we began was that we wanted to respect Japanese music, but also create it as our own.” Pep Magic, long-time partners of Tonko House founders Tsutsumi & Robert Kondo who first scored the music for the animated and are Pep Magic.

Tsutsumi offered support and direction for composers and allowed the composers to discover Oni’s mythological realm through music. The composers spent hours studying the traditional Japanese scales, taiko drumming and other instruments as well as learning about these techniques. Tsutsumi offered personal references through folk songs and chants he studied from Japan when he was a kid. Tsutsumi says “When they come back with a logical approach and an answer – often it is real.” This is due to the fact that I’m nostalgia-driven to listen to their songs.

Johnston says it was crucial for the inclusion of Tsutsumi’s Japanese performers in the animated epic. Johnston stated about musicians “We had the privilege to have a dialogue with them and provide the musicians feedback on every shot.” It was really enjoyable for the musicians to be able to do whatever they liked, however it was also a lot of fun to capture some photos and let them let them be themselves.

Roberts says, “She brought such emotion to the music that it was as if everyone tried not to weep when she started playing.” The flute as well as the Taiko added warmth and authenticity in the performance.

Music and visuals were crucial to convey the mysterious and mystical elements of Oni the Mount Kamigami surroundings to the people who live there. Johnston states “I enjoy watching the plots change as characters get more complicated – it’s satisfying and feels emotionally.” It’s like the characters have been around me for two years and their themes have been ingrained into my mind. Tsutsumi states “They are storytelling masters.” As a director, the thing I am most concerned about is the fact that their scenes are authentic. As an audience member I am attentive to the emotion of every scene.

All of us can learn from one another.

Roberts is clearly a fan of flutes and Taiko. She thinks they add emotions to music, and also add human touch. Roberts believes that they compliment one another, creating an extremely powerful and warm tone.

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