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.

Professional Photography Session for a Bodybuilder

Professional Photography Session for a Bodybuilder

Last time I had photographed a bodybuilder/fitness athlete  was in Seoul, South Korea. That time around was my Serbian friend who has been competing for Asia Grand Prix, Figure Pro Qualifier. I was quite stoked when she contacted me “ You live here in Seoul? Im here for competition” as I knew she had moved from Belgrade to New York. World’s so small right?

Sometime later, here I am in Japan, receiving this e-mail from Mohammed:

“Hi Cristian,

This is Mohammed.

Am a bodybuilder in Tokyo now, I wonder if you can do a fitness photo shot session on next Sunday 17 November. Sorry for the short notice.



It was indeed a short notice as I had prior plans, but I can never say no to a photography session in Tokyo, with a bodybuilder.  Now, probably my shape doesn’t show it (obviously, I am a photographer after all living in Japan 😉 ), but I did studied in the past bodybuilding and I have trained for quite a while myself, that’s why I have a great understanding and respect when it comes to this sport and to the people doing it. The amount of work and discipline involved is extreme and many people really live their life for it, respecting daily specific meals, train and sleep. And often times, a lot of pain, because building muscles involves pain. There is a saying among bodybuilders, “No pain, no gain”.

Moving back to my bodybuilder client, he’s one of the most amazing people I had the pleasure to meet. Back home in Qatar he is a police officer, passionate about sports in general with kick boxing and bodybuilding being at the top of his preferences.

After a few short e-mails, we decided to meet at Shibuya, where is one the most know crossings in the whole world. Shortly after meeting him, I have discovered a very passionate bodybuilder, very positive and happy person. On the day of the photo shoot he had woke up at 6 AM to get ready. Why on Earth a man would woke up at 6AM for a shoot at 9AM? Hmm, there is and explanation.

On the day before Mohammed had been competing in Amateur Olympia 2019 held in Tokyo organized by IFBB Professional League and NPCJ (I don’t quite know what NPCJ stands for) where he won 1st place!!! Well, I wasn’t overall, but for 90kg if I’m not mistaken. Still extremely impressive! Because of this, he had been artificially tanned so he would show off his musculature easier. This comes at a cost, it’s really hard to remove it in a very short time, so, there you go, he had to wake up and get ready from 6AM. 🙂

How’s that to be professional photographer for such an athlete, based in Tokyo? Well, first of all, it was amazing. Second, also amazing. Because Mohammed was in his best shape, right after a big competition, his shape was crazy good, and all I had to do was to translate that into amazing photographs. Sounds easy right? Well, keep reading, at the end of the article I have embedded an YouTube video I made while editing his photographs.

He didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted from the photography session he had booked in Tokyo. That’s why on our way to the shooting place, which is only a couple of  minutes away from Shibuya, I was asking a lot of questions so I get to know who he is. I started to take photos of him wearing clothes, but that wasn’t doing justice for all the hard work he’s been doing. Previously I have seen he brought some spare outfits with him, so I asked what else he have. And only then the real fun had begun and I have installed my sofboxes and flashes.

My worry was that weather on the day might have been a little cold for him to be “naked” but then… when you are a pack of 90kg of pure muscles… you tend to warm up pretty quickly. 

He would then take off his shirt and jeans for a more “relaxed outfit” which brought to light his lean body and muscles. Right there and then I realized and told him, to never ever cover his muscles for a photography session held after a competition. It’s a no-no, considering all the work and logistics involved to get to a such perfect shape.

The rest of the photoshoot went as smooth as it could get, with Mohammed doing his competing poses to show off his muscular body and absolutely impress me behind camera. Above you can see his great flexibility too, a chapter at which my body acts worse than a stone. 🙂

He had inspired me so much, and I will use the inspiration to drive me to become better and better at producing amazing photographs.  If you have a dream, do your best to make it true; the amount of satisfaction you’ll get is priceless. I can say I am living my dream of being professional photographer, and not anywhere, but in one of the biggest metropolis in the world: Tokyo.

Few days later after WahtsApping him some photographs, I got this feedback:

“Wow great editing 🔥🔥🔥

Like it
Wow a lot of work !!! Great job 👍
Thanks bro nice to meet and work with you

You are really talented photographer 🔥👍
Wow the editing next level 😍😍😍”

Now, here you can see a video I have posted to my YouTube Channel with the workflow I did while editing his photographs. I use these professional photography editing techniques whenever it is necessary to accomplish the best results for my clients, using both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

This video shows over 30 minutes of editing compressed down to under 5 minutes 🙂

As always, if you need a professional photographer based in Tokyo, hit the contact button bellow, follow my Instagram and like my Facebook Page to stay in touch with the latest images and stories I produce.