In collaboration with Red Bull Music Studios Amsterdam, the EP boasts an international stream of artists and producers from France, the Netherlands and Japan, in line with KOTO’s aim to build a global platform bridging brands with music, culture and arts through electronic music.
Rana Vatanparast is not your typical artist manager. Her experience working with artists from a diverse field spanning music, culture, arts, and years of testing and tasting her own gut-feeling has bore a business strategy, which combined her role as an artist manager and label owner.
“I think KOTO was born from this somewhat irritation I had of the music industry and working with labels. Also, I love doing A&R and bringing unexpected artists together to collaborate and in this process, of course, being able to position the artists I manage in the direction they wish to be heading,” said Vatanparast. “KOTO is a holistic approach to all the things that I am busy with on a daily basis: artist management, releasing music and building a brand around both.”
The Japan-inspired theme, born from her numerous travel experiences in Asia, forms the basic ideas for the EP, which then led to the EP’s initial discussion with Awich, a Japanese artist and producer based in Okinawa.
“Since the idea and inspiration of the first EP was based on a Japan-inspired theme, it was obvious that we would eventually collaborate with a Japanese vocal artist.” Awich’s name eventually popped up during a dinner discussion between the artist manager and her best friend from Patta, Tim Sabajo. “[Tim] texted her [Awich] on the spot and brought us into contact with each other.”
Excited over the initial introduction, Vatanparast wasted no time in finding out who Awich is, and soon discovered that her voice, music and vibe appealed to the concept of the EP. “I really like women with an attitude, especially when you don’t expect it. I have experienced Japanese women to be often very timid and to see a character like Awich was very refreshing for me.”
When Vatanparast and Awich’s mutual friend Tim Sabajo made the initial introduction, Okinawa-based artists Akiko (Awich’s real name) quickly realised the project’s special reason involving several producers from Europe, and decided to make no further hesitation to commit: “I have [had] a great relationship with Tim, and assumed that any project suggested by him would be anything but awesome…and didn’t hesitate to be in touch with [Vatanparast] right away”.
In order to touch base with music enthusiasts and connect to a larger network of content creators in Japan, Vatanparast made an early decision in the project timeline to invite producer Sam Tiba and Canblaster, known for their fanatiscm on Japanese culture. Her research, prior to kickstarting the project, also led digging into her vinyl collection with Japanese vinyls from Akiko Yano and Riuichi Sakamoto’s as an inspiration for this project.
Dutch producer Wantigga, one of the producer involved in the release of the EP, explains the challenge working with 8 other artists/producers, commented: “Working with so many producers on one record is a big challenge, near impossible…[nevertheless] At the end, each producers took the lead to finish a track, … [and] Instead of pushing our own ideas, everyone complimented each other.”
Recorded partly in Red Bull Music Studios Amsterdam, Sam Tiba said, “It was great to gather in the studio with six producers who have mutual love and passion for Japan. Within three sessions we managed to merge our favorite influences with a subjective but sincere depiction of what Japan means to us.”
Studio KOTO identifies its company’s core DNA through the special partnerships it has with creatives from alternative and independent background whilst focusing on electronic music. KOTO’s voice, as explained by Vatanparast, carry ‘a pretty specific taste’, which often falls into the ‘non-commercial’ but forward thinking division.
“I’m browsing the web all day every day, and [it] remains the main platform where I find new inspiration and talents. I have a pretty specific taste and know clearly what I like and don’t like, so when I spot something the judgement call is easily made. If it’s appealing to me straight away, I know I like it and that it will fit the DNA of KOTO. It’s often non-commercial (don’t get me wrong, commercial things can be cool too), innovative and created from passion. I’m very open for new things and doing things in a non-conventional way, so that’s where I find common ground with talents and partners.”
While some of us may find managing artists and being a record label just too much multitasking to handle, Rana Vatanparast found her inspiration, a product of her best self. “I love doing A&R and bringing unexpected artists together to collaborate and in this process, of course, being able to position the artists I manage in the direction they wish to be heading.”
Distance knows no limit for the nine artists involved in the release of KOTO’s new EP. The collaboration brings together Club cheval members, Canblaster and Sam Tiba , along with Dutch talents The Flexican , Wantigga , Jengi and Ja ë l , and the prominent Japanese rappers Awich , Loota and producer Emufucka.
The EP is now availabable on Spotify and iTunes. The vinyl version soon to be released in August, is available through pre-order here.