A Snapshot of Tokyo's Underground Music Scene

A Snapshot of Tokyo's Underground Music Scene

Last Thursday, on the 13th of February, I was the official photographer covering the event for the debut show of Catherine Forte in downtown Tokyo in a cozy and interesting venue named Mame Romantic (Haretara Sora ni Mame Maite).

The venue is quite hard to find if Japanese language is a barrier (it is for me anyway), but apparently this is a well known spot for underground music events. Ironically, this venue is actually underground as well! It was the first time I’ve ever been to Mame Romantic in Daikanyama, Shibuya. After attending last week’s event, I can now objectively say that I’ll be back as an audience member to check out their other interesting music events.

Catherine Forte band members
A Snapshot of Tokyo’s Underground Music Scene: Catherine Forte and her band

If you have ever read any of my blog posts, you already know that I love events. All kinds of events. Here you can check out my other post about another event I had covered in January 2020, titled: ONE EVENT, MANY CREATIVES IN TOKYO, JAPAN.

Before digging deeper into the article, I should make some clarifications. By and large, music for me is divided into two main genres: “I like” and “I don’t like”. Of course I know about rock (actually love listening to Queen), pop, hip-hop, classic music, reggae, jazz and probably, if I do some brainstorming, I’ll be able to name another few.

Catherine Forte’s music falls into the category of “I like.”

Who is Catherine Forte? I asked her myself to tell me about her time here in Tokyo navigating the underground music scene.

“After moving to Tokyo in 2018, my first show was in the corner of a small bookstore without any amplification. I booked it myself after applying to a ‘singer-songwriters wanted’ post I saw on Facebook. Shortly after the intimate show, bookers and promoters began reaching out to have me play at bigger venues such as Ruby Room, Shibuya NOB, and Varit Roppongi, just to name a few. Things seemed to just fall into place; one opportunity led to another. Even though I was being placed on bills with full bands, I did my best to win the crowd over with my lively acoustic music, passionate voice, and honest songwriting. I think even a few laughed at my silly jokes! Eventually, I was introduced to Japanese producer Takashi Shirayama of W.M. Studio Music Factory, who wanted to use his network of professional musicians to establish a backing band to help my music career in Japan. He believed in me and my music. It was validating to say the least. A week before the show, I met all the members and we practiced for 2 hours in a rented studio space in Shibuya. This past Thursday was the debut show of my band and an accumulation of a year and a half of hard work performing in the Tokyo music scene. It’s humbling to think of my first show: crammed in the corner of that bookstore…”

Catherine Forte portrait taken during her music debut show in Tokyo
Catherine Forte portrait taken during her debut show in Tokyo

Catherine Forte’s musical momentum continues with a new single, “First Dance”, set to be released in March across all streaming services worldwide.

Working closely with San Diego producer, Drew Chammas (aka DruLoop), Forte’s new single is the beginning of a new fresh pop sound, but still maintains the same emotional and engaging songwriting that fans fell in love with.

Join the Catherine Forte Newsletter on catherineforte.com to keep in touch with her musical journey in Japan and be sure to follow her on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and very soon – Spotify and Apple Music.

My favorite song of Catherine Forte

Catherine continues to describe her music and passion:

“I write music on my acoustic guitar or on a piano, sometimes I perform completely acoustic yet it still holds energy. People tell me they close their eyes and think there is more than one person on stage with the rhythms I create on my guitar. And now, I am excited to be producing music in a pop style for the first time with Drew Chammas.

My first single, ‘First Dance,’ will be released in late March on all streaming platforms and will represent my first dance with my audience with this new exciting sound. 

There will be synth, funky bass lines, electric guitar, and electronic drums but still have the emotional and honest lyrics and storytelling of my singer-songwriter background.

I used to only write sad music, but now I want to give people a soundtrack to their lives to bring happiness and to inspire. I still love melancholy so there will be a few softer, more intimate songs that I will release sporadically that will remind those of my acoustic beginnings. “

Catherine Forte during her music debut show in Tokyo, full stage take
Catherine Forte during her music debut show in Tokyo

For a while now, whenever I am working on my computer, editing photos, doing social media, writing this blog, I listen to music. I find at times that depending on how I feel and what I do, I listen to different music, sometimes only instrumental, other times Mozart, Queen, or John Coltrane. It seems that music indeed is a form of therapy for me and an integral part of my everyday life.

Catherine’s music speaks to me and even fits my old-fashioned taste (I mentioned Queen before!). I guess this is the best compliment I can make to her. From the first moment she stepped on the stage, it caught my attention and doing my work as a photographer was sooooo easy. There is a symbiotic relationship between photography and music, yet I’ve combined the two only a handful of times. The show lasted for about thirty minutes but it felt like it was only three minutes. During her show, Catherine successfully managed to catch the crowd’s attention in a very natural way, I was really amazed. There were people in the crowd singing along during the band debut show and this proves she already has a large fan pool.

Catherine Forte Portrait
Catherine Forte debut music show

Everyone was very engaged during the show and from an outsider’s view like me, they actually looked like they knew each other and have sung for a lifetime. That is impressive. I am already looking forward to hearing Catherine Forte and the band live again.

Make sure you check her out and follow & subscribe to her newsletter. And why not, become a fan. I know I am.

Thank you for staying with me until the end of the article. Since you are here, go check my other blog post I already mentioned above about another event in Tokyo I covered as a photographer.

Cristian Bucur Photography Logo
Cristian Bucur Photography Logo

Don’t forget, if you are looking to hire a photographer in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, I am here to Frame Your Life Stories!

Huge thank you to Catherine for helping me to make this blog post possible.

Video from the show.

One Event, many creatives in Tokyo, Japan

One Event, many creatives in Tokyo, Japan

Last week, Fabien Sena had texted me about a casual social event in Tokyo, meant for meeting like minded artsy people: models, photographers, make-up and hair artists as well as other creative people. I have to confess, I knew about this from my friend Raluca Sandra Moore of Asia Group Shoots by Sandra Moore Productions , but because lately things are quite hectic in my everyday life, I totally forgot about it.

Fabien is running a Facebook Page dedicated solely to this kind of events, @pics_japan, as well as a website where people who share similar interests can find each other. Thank you for organizing this Fabien.

Fabien, during his speech talking about the pioneers how have made this possible: Raluca Sandra Moore, Louise and Fabien Sena.

The idea was born between the three : Fabien Sena, Louise & Raluca Sandra Moore of Sandra Moore Productions.

Sandra Moore Productions has been the active company that instilled Asia Group Shoots as a trademark event back in 2017 in Macau S.A.R.

Ever since SMP has had 2 glorious and successful events in Macau that revolutionized the creative scene in and around that region.
Never before have creatives come together in 5 star locations for the sole purpose of shooting for a whole entire day, and building their portfolios.
This event become quite popular very fast and most of the local news and tabloids noticed and spoke of it.

Images and videos from the Asia Group Shoots events were projected on the walls within Sankeys Penthouse on the event day.

Sandra Moore Productions is the 3rd organizing part of the Pics-Japan event & sponsor of the competition in Tokyo.

Sandra Moore Production

Since the begging of my journey in the world of photography I was continuously looking to connect with actual people who have the same interests like I do. Being able to meet people off-line to me is and will always be a great opportunity to hear interesting stories and share ideas and thoughts. Therefore, it was a no brainer that I will attend and be part of this little but exclusive community. Being a photographer, more often than not my camera goes where I go all the time, regardless of the fact that sometimes I may not use it. Sankeys PENTHOUSE in downtown Tokyo is an interesting venue spread on two levels (10th and 11th). Being able to freely shoot around was a chance I couldn’t pass. I’m a big fan of shooting all kinds of events, and this time I decided to use a photography technique that isn’t very popular due to it’s increased chances to miss a lot of shots. Even so, I could make quite a few interesting photographs which you can see here in this article.

Women trying on fashion accessories
Women trying on fashion accessories during the party. @eenabo

Arriving there Fabien was a great host right at the entrance meeting each and every one of the guests. Everything was organized very well, with snacks and drinks ready for us to “relax” and enjoy the atmosphere.  During the whole evening, there were screens showcasing the work of those who wanted to submit photos/work to be displayed during the entire event.

Some of the snacks available 🙂

The first people I met are Grace @gracemaureen_ and Edy @eduardocortesmorales, from Utah(USA) respectively Mexico. I hope I got that right. During the evening we had shared information about our life who and what has been doing; well, as much as possible during a party 🙂

Next in turn with whom I was talking was Jessie @jessiewithea. Jessie is originally from China and runs a studio in Tokyo, which focuses on Japanese Style Photographs. Our conversation was going around what it takes to run a photography business, the challenges, pros and cons of being an entrepreneur. I have realized that sometimes we tend to forget the real cost of doing business. The discussion was a good reminder to not overlook  even those small details which can add up by a lot at the end when calculating the real cost and figures.


In between conversations I did take my time to shoot a little bit around the venue, especially to have a reminder of what it was like. After only a couple of shots, I have decided to use a different approach to how I shoot and use a technique that can fail big if used wrong: Rear curtain sync with the flash and a rather long exposure to be able to get that movement around the subjects. It was quite fun actually. 

While ordering a drink at the bar, Karl had popped up for the same reason, to pick up a new drink, and so we managed to say hi to each other and have a little chat. Karl has deep roots into visual arts, Nikon University College of Art being only one of the schools he had studied. He was talking about the challenges of nowadays social media and the subsequent success it can provide when properly used.
After a lot of time invested to learn about social media(in all forms and shapes) I am still a beginner when it comes to mastering it. It is always changing its rules, demanding long lasting presence and keeping up with new standards, which most of the time it takes away from creating. For me social media it is indeed a side job, totally parallel with me being a photographer. 

Portrait taken during a party
Portrait taken during the party

If let’s say, I need two hours to produce 20 photographs,(travel time + shooting time + post processing + delivery of the final edited images), to spread the word and showcase those photos will take at least as much time (if not more), if the main goal would be to effective to produce results and not only throwing them somewhere in the cyberspace.

Portrait taken during a party
Photograph of an amazing artist drawing a portrait taken during a party

Another passionate in this field I had the opportunity to previously meet was Louise @edenthecollection. Who know Louise knows there is not much I could say bout her, she’s absolutely lovely. Fashion photography is just another of her names. 🙂 Thank you for your efforts put into making this event happen.

I thought of choosing a different photograph of Louise, and not because she has a big mouth, but because she has a lot of experience to share.

Right after I had decided to return home, Fabien had introduced me Reina, @enrei.reina, with whom I had an elevator ride and common walk to the subway during which time we have discussed about photography, of course. This has led us to talk about being or not specialized; you may have noticed that at the moment I choose to not be specialized and I enjoy shooting from corporate events to pet, family, vacation, Save the Date, you name it, and I photograph it. Any day I could choose to specialize, but I feel like it’s not the time yet. As and example, making portraits of people it would still be doing portraits, regardless of the occasion, during a corporate event or for a family photo session in the park. After all, that CEO speaking in front of the shareholders more often than not has a husband/wife, a child, a family. Of course, the approach will be different, but still, in my philosophy a portrait is a portrait. 

Portrait of Reina, taken during the party

Reina brought up the table that being specialized once can get to be the best in his field. That’s very true; I feel the decision to be or not to be specialized is a very personal decision which I believe it must come naturally.  For me it didn’t. I am sure one day it will, if not for other reasons, at least because of the time involved to do certain photography jobs.

Well, with this I have reached the end of a great night, which I hope it will only the first of many more. Beautiful bright and talented people are always people I want to meet and be surrounded with. Always a pleasure to talk and discuss with like minded people.

Portrait of a man
Portrait of Robb

Down bellow I have chosen to share with you not only people I could meet, but also people who wanted to write and share a couple of words about themselves, even though the time wasn’t nearly enough to get to know everyone. 

Remy Busson

“I’m a French Creative Director. My work primarily focus on Animation, motion design and projection mapping projects.On my personal time, I like to make creatives side projects. 
I started to experiment with photography 10 years ago, taking photos of models experiencing my digital work. Since then, I occasionally take creative photography side gigs. Recently, I have an on-going  project shooting projecting video mapping on models, capturing the performance in photo and video. An exhibition should be released in 2020.”

Website: www.remybusson.com
Model mapping project teaser: https://youtu.be/BtOJlpXiNDE
 IG: @remy_photographer

Gregor McGregor

“After years of doing the work grind in Japan I decided I wanted to ranch out and express myself, to do something I truly wanted. Last year I launched my business, focusing on travel/tour photography.  I stumbled onto the event page for pics_japan by accident and decided to take a chance. I wasn’t sure what or who I would find at the event. What was waiting was a little bit comfort, and familiarity wrapped in the unfamiliar. It was like coming home, in a kind of strange way, finding the warm embrace of community.”

Website: www.pawprintphoto.net


“I am now running a photography studio in Tokyo. Focusing on Japanese style. Check my homepage bellow:”

Website: https://coolbeanstokyostudio.stores.jp/

Shelby Lynn

“My interest in fashion and film began when I was 13, where I modeled and creatively directed pretend shoots with friends. By age 23, I was studying makeup in London, working on small films. I have modeled sporadically throughout my life, and my current focus is in combining fine art, psychology and philanthropy into a film project centered on the effects of PTSD.”

Facebook Link: https://m.facebook.com/shelby.eames
IG: @shelby.magnolia

Eena Irina

@Eena Irina ( Eenabo) is a creative director/ stylist & designer at Eenabo Select- a rental fashion & design studio in the heart of Tokyo, providing styling services and custom designed accessories  for various creative productions – photo shoots, fashion films, personal event styling, runways, beauty pageants and more. Various high brands available : Gucci, Balmain, Cavalli, Red Valentino, Carven, MSGM, Maison Margiela and more.
@Eenabo FAB and @Eena Irina joined our creators event to style models for the photo shoots. Models and guests were trying on some fabulous fashion and unique accessories  and modeled them at the event.

 Facebook- @EenaboFAB
IG- @eenabo 
Website: www.eenabo.com

Make sure you get to follow me on Instagram, one of the most updated media channels I use.

Thank you for reading my blog and for following my story as a professional photographer who covers Yokohama, Tokyo and beyond.  My services extend  beyond event, family, fitness, pet studio photography. If you have a great idea, please shoot me a message by clicking here.

Cristian Bucur Photography Logo
Cristian Bucur Photography Logo

Remember you can always follow me on any of the social platforms associated down bellow.

My editing workflow