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Tokyo City Guide with Max Essa: Through the Beats of an Electronic Music Maestro.

Kono Vidovic March 4, 2024 71 8 5

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As a passionate explorer of urban soundscapes and an ardent believer in the power of music to transform spaces, I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which cities and their unique cultures shape the artists within them. Tokyo, a city that pulsates with an electric vibrancy, has been a place of inspiration for many. Among them is Max Essa, a name that resonates deeply within the realms of electronic and dance music. Having carved a niche for himself with an impressive discography that spans decades and continents, Max’s journey is as intriguing as the city he calls home. In this city guide and interview, we dive into Tokyo through Max’s eyes, exploring its hidden gems, from pulsating clubs to serene sushi spots, all while getting a glimpse into the life of a DJ and producer who has made this metropolis his muse.

City Guide Tokyo with Max Essa

How did you find yourself in the city in which you live?

I was offered a one-year work contract in Tokyo starting in 2008.  It was a rare opportunity and I jumped at the chance. When that ended things were going well for me music wise, so I decided to stay.

What is your relationship with the city and it’s culture?

I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into the club scene in Tokyo early on in my time here. After a year or two I was playing at a lot of great spots like Eleven, Seco Bar, Bonobo etc. The underground music scenes here are extremely varied and there’s something to cater for all tastes. I consider myself very lucky to be involved in such a rich melting pot of ideas and cultural influences. 

How have you seen it change much during your time there and in what way?

The single biggest change since I started living here, is the amount of tourists coming to Japan. When I first started going out in Tokyo, and a little later DJing in the city, I would often be one of maybe only two or three non-Japanese people in the room. Now it’s more like 50% and over. It’s good for business, but there are some concerns about how it effects the cultural aspect of nightlife here.

What is your tip for best music venue and why do you chose it?

Aoyama Zero. Great DJs and amazing sound!

If we get to Tokyo where should we go to eat? 

One of my favorite places to eat is a place called Wadatsumi in Shibuya. Soba, sushi and more in a beautifully put together environment.


What is your tip for best bar?

Aoyama Tunnel is a wonderful bar with a great Taguchi sound system and some of the best music you’ll hear in Tokyo. It’s open until 4am Monday to Thursday and 7am on Fridays and Saturdays!


Where should we go to dig for records?

EAD Records in Koenji, Lighthouse Records in Shibuya, City Country City in Shimokitazawa. 



When time permits, what is the thing you like to do most in your city.

Walk around the second-hand bookshops in Jimbocho.



End conclusion.

As our sonic journey through Tokyo with Max Essa comes to a close, we’re left with not just a map to the city’s musical heart but also a deeper appreciation for the rhythms that define it. Max, your insights have not only illuminated the vibrant corners of Tokyo but have also reminded us of the universal language of music that connects us across continents. A heartfelt thank you for sharing your Tokyo with us and for the beats that keep our worlds spinning.

For everyone tuned in, the adventure doesn’t end here. Dive into the latest collaboration between Max Essa and Eddie C, ‘We Live in the Hills,’ a masterpiece that promises to transport you with its melancholic disco and Balearic beats. Available now on Razor-N-Tape, this EP is a testament to the magic that happens when two visionary artists come together. Don’t miss this sonic exploration that’s as captivating as the city that inspired it.

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Kono Vidovic at Dirty Disco

Kono Vidovic

DJ | MUSIC CURATOR & SELECTOR | PODCAST MAKER | BLOGGER Professional online interpreneur. Coffee practitioner. Electronic music culture maven. Total music guru. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Food & sports fanatic.

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