Remembering Nujabes

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Yesterday marked the four-year anniversary of the death of one of my favorite musical artists.

Jun Seba, known professionally as “Nujabes,” was a Japanese DJ who combined melodies, blended notes, shaped sounds, and crafted music that I regard as profoundly special. He didn’t just make music I liked. It was more personal than that.

His “style” was a mishmash of various forms of jazz, which he tended to sample, combined with his own original beats, which were heavily influenced by hip-hop. He often collaborated with hip-hop lyricists, but my favorite tracks are those without any words at all. I prefer his instrumental music, which makes up about half of his portfolio, because his work gets to take the spotlight — not someone else’s.

His tunes are generally fairly mellow, and that’s what I love. It’s often ambient, atmospheric and thoroughly tonal. His music is the paint I use to depict scenes and portraits in my mind. I feel at-ease when I’m gliding through his albums.

Publicly, there’s not much known about Nujabes. He didn’t have what you’d call “mainstream” popularity, and didn’t use any social media, but he garnered a modest and passionate fanbase through the geekier corners of the internet. He was known to many people as the composer of the music in the anime “Samurai Champloo,” but that wasn’t even his best work. Once you discovered the rest of his music, you were privy to a world of pure, unadulterated pleasure.

As people who didn’t know Jun Seba, his music is the only thing we can use to gain any insight into what he was like as a person. Given his penchant for melding multiple pieces of music — much of which you might not think even go together — into balanced, synchronous, harmonious streams of expression, I have to believe he was a person who detested conflict and discord. And that is something I can easily relate to.

Sadly, Seba-san lost his life late one night in a traffic accident on a freeway in Tokyo. His family didn’t announce his death until two or three weeks after it happened in order to allow themselves to mourn his death and lay him to rest. Nonetheless, I was devastated when I found out. Even though I knew next-to-nothing about him.

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