From Rio to Tokyo: "Olha Pro Céu~Look at the Sky~" Joint Japan-Brazil Pop Concert

Jin Nakahara (Music producer/Radio program producer)


Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra featuring Emicida perform "Olha pro céu"

Prior to the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Japan Foundation hosted "Olha Pro Céu~Look at the Sky~," a joint Japan-Brazil pop concert in Rio de Janeiro on July 29 and 30, 2016.The participants in the concert from Japan were Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Marcia, who were joined by Brazilian artists Vanessa da Mata, a highly popular singer with a great singing voice, and Emicida, one of Brazil's top rappers. These artists created a bridge of music connecting Japan and Brazil. Music and radio program producer Jin Nakahara, who worked on the production of this concert, and who for many years has been involved in activities that link Japan and Brazil through music, contributed this article describing how the concert was organized and held.

The concert, which drew a full house on both days and received great reviews in Rio de Janeiro, was held in Tokyo on November 29, 2016, with the participation of Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Emicida.The musicians recreated "Olha Pro Céu~Look at the Sky~," and thereby added momentum to the passing of the baton from the Rio de Janeiro Olympic and Paralympic Games to the Tokyo Games.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra visited Brazil for the first time in November 2015 and recorded "Olha pro céu," the latest version of "Sukiyaki" (also known by the original Japanese title "Ue wo Muite Aruko") in collaboration with Brazil's leading and charismatic rapper Emicida. This recording marked the start of the project for the joint Japan-Brazil pop-concert "Olha Pro Céu~Look at the Sky~" organized by the Japan Foundation. This project was realized through the coming together of various connections and encounters, and I had the honor to contribute to it through my nearly 30 years' worth of experience working to connect Japan and Brazil through the means of music.

"Olha Pro Céu~Look at the Sky~" was held at Vivo Rio, Rio de Janeiro's principal show venue, on July 29 and 30, only a week before the start of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Marcia from Japan performed together with Brazilian singer Vanessa da Mata and rapper Emicida.


Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra performance caused wild enthusiasm among the Rio audience

The concert received extensive coverage in the local media. The previous day, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra appeared on a live TV entertainment show and performed together with Emicida, while on July 29 and 30, most major newspapers published articles introducing Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra in their culture sections. This is how the concert unfolded.

Just before the concert, the original version of "Sukiyaki" performed by Kyu Sakamoto was played while visual images presenting the history of the song were projected onto a large screen at the venue. The video ended with images from the studio recording of Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra together with Emicida. Next, Marcia appeared on the stage singing a cappella "Olhando pra cima," a Portuguese-language version of "Sukiyaki," and then welcomed Vanessa da Mata.

Vanessa da Mata, who appeared on the stage with her band, is most beloved MPB (Música popular brasileira, or Brazilian Pop Music) singer of this century. She performed many of her popular songs, whipping up the audience. Just like Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, her rich vocal style incorporates elements of reggae and soul. Emicida appeared last and performed his hit song "Passarinhos" (literally translated as "Small Birds") from the latest album, which was originally recorded as a duet with Vanessa da Mata, accompanied by her band.

During the intermission, the audience watched a video of the exchange through music in November 2015 between Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and children living in favelas. These children are supported by the Favela Brass Project, a local non-profit organization that provides free music education to the children in the favelas in Rio de Janeiro to prevent them from going down a path to delinquency and crime. Then, finally, it was time for the live act of Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. The band unleashed its powerful and dynamic performance on the confined stage, immediately winning the hearts of their first-time Brazilian audience, who stood up and rushed toward the stage.

As the excitement of the audience reached its peak, Emicida appeared on the stage and broke into "Olha pro céu," a fervent rendition of "Sukiyaki," mixing the song with freestyle rap. Next, Marcia sang together with Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, and for the finale, Emicida and Vanessa da Mata joined the Japanese performers on the stage, and all sang "Olhando pra cima," the Portuguese-language version of "Sukiyaki." With this timeless song as the main theme, the artists delivered an electrifying finale, in which music transcended national and cultural borders, creating a strong emotional bond among everyone at the venue.


In the finale, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Marcia, Emicida, and Vanessa da Mata all performed "Olhando pra cima"

In the audience, there were numerous prominent Brazilian musicians and producers, and after the end of the concert they all delivered rave reviews of the performance of Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, saying how deeply it had moved them. Before the start of the concert on the second day, Tokyo Ska Paradise invited the children supported by the Favela Brass Project to the venue and conducted a workshop. The members of Japanese band were surprised and delighted to see how much the children had grown since last November, and how much their techniques had improved.


Playing together with children supported by the Favela Brass Project


The walls of the backstage area are signed by major artists from Brazil and abroad

"From Rio to Tokyo: Olha Pro Céu ~Look at the Sky~" Tokyo Concert was held in late November 2016, with the participation of Emicida.


Jin Nakahara
Jin Nakahara was born in 1954 in Yokohama. Since 1985, he has visited Brazil nearly 50 times. In addition to his journalistic activities, he has worked on the production of approximately 15 CD albums recorded in Brazil. He is involved in the production and song selection for various radio programs, such as the long-running SAÚDE! SAUDADE... on J-WAVE, creation of compilation CDs, selection of space background music, and production of music events. He is also a writer, DJ, MC, and instructor at a culture center. He is the co-author of Rio de Janeiro to iu ikikata (Futabasha Publishers).

Page top▲