Within the sprawling cache of archival material the YouTube era has unearthed and distributed, among my favorites is a stunning series, documenting two performances by the Far East Family Band’s Fumio Miyashta, from The Boffomundo Show during 1979 and 1980. Since they began appearing almost a decade ago, I’ve found myself returning to them again and again – a source of rare joy.
Compared to other parts of the world, The United States has never been known for particularly risky or ambitious arts programing on television. PBS has had its moments, but nothing consistent, and largely focused on figures who had already entered a wider mainstream consciousness and acceptance. There is very little which taps an active counter-cultural or underground position.
Given the current landscape, it is important to remember the context of television as it existed not so long ago. Until the late 70’s and early 80’s, most countries only played host to a tiny number of channels. This memory opens an important window onto a number of features. For roughly the first half a century of the medium’s existence, there was very little option for variety and diversity – be that in content, position, or cultural proximity, thus activating incredible sway over attention and subsequent perception. There were only so many things available to watch, so focus and understanding was less divided. Especially in American, this helped sustain the perception of a unified mono-culture – politically center-right, white, and middle class with the possibility of economic mobility, and thus failing to represent a huge proportion of population. In Europe, while many of the same failings exist, within arts programing there was a great deal more risk, adventure, and diversity. Thus, given the lack of option for variety, with its subsequent sway over attention and perception, made the wilder ends of the creative spectrum more accessible, approachable, and normalized.
This began to change toward the end of the 1970’s and during the early 80’s, a period which saw a huge growth in cable television subscription and programing. While the medium had begun during the late 1940s as a remedy to poor terrestrial reception, it wasn’t until much later that it began to take off on a global scale. While cable came to vastly expand the variety and diversity of programing, shattering the monopoly over our attentions, that a small number of stations once held, it also came with an important feature within the United States. In 1972, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order which required all cable systems in the top 100 U.S. television markets to offer three access-channels – for public, educational, and local government use, respectively. This was amended in 1976, stating that cable systems in communities with 3,500 or more subscribers, must set aside four cable TV channels, providing access to equipment and studios, for the public.
For those of us who grew up within the counterculture in America, all access cable channels once occupied a seminal place in our landscape – a prototype for the access to unmediated information, which the internet later became. Of course, with the good came the bad. In a world currently reeling from the effects of misinformation and lies spread over the internet, it is worth remembering that it was within cable access television that right-wing political and religious extremism found a strong foothold during the 80’s. But, for an era – stretching from the late 70’s until the early 90’s, it also played host to wildly diverse efforts within the arts – from chaotic to dry as stale toast, to absurd, celebratory and creatively ambitious, activating a perception of American life, which had never existed before.
Among the most notable of these cable access television programs, was the LA based Boffomundo Show, which existed from 1979 to 1992, hosted and produced by Aaron Weiner and Len Peyronnin. While at times charmingly awkward and naive, it was founded on a deep love for adventurous music, and a hope to offer access to it, for a wider public. It was a conceptual precursor of this blog, or any number of others. Most importantly, its archives are host to some stunning performances that otherwise wouldn’t exist, not the least of which are those by Fumio Miyashta, which lay before us now.
The performances come at an interesting juncture in Miyashta’s career. His primary project, the Japanese psych /prog outfit Far East Family Band, which had been founded in 1975, was entering its final stages, finding Miyashta living in the U.S., trying to form a new realization with Japanese and American members, while embarking on a body of solo work. The two events are related, but subtly different. The first, from 1979, features a beautiful, rambling solo synthesizer performance, spliced by conversations between the program’s host, Miyashta, and his label boss. The second, from 1980, is largely a solo performance by Miyashta, but features moments when he is joined by current Far East Family Band members, Lance Hooks and George Babon, and is slightly less engrossing and coherent, but still worthy of attention.
While they have been lingering in my mind for sometime, I had intended to write about these amazing documents roughly a month ago when I noticed that Drag City was issuing an LP from these recordings. Time, with other work obligation, got the better of me, and I’m only getting to it now. Check out the performances below, and if you dig what you hear as much as I do, I recommend picking up the record while it lasts.
Fumio Miyashta On The Boffomundo Show in 1979 (Part One)
Fumio Miyashta On The Boffomundo Show in 1979 (Part Two)
Fumio Miyashta On The Boffomundo Show in 1979 (Part Three)
Fumio Miyashta / Far East Family Band On The Boffomundo Show in 1980