On a Tuesday night between 8 and 8:30 pm, you may have found yourself moving to some smooth Latin tunes played on Love FM radio (76.1 MHz). For the past 13 years, the person behind the dial keeping Fukuoka up to date with Latino sounds is Magno. In Fukuoka, you might get the chance to see him play live, fusing Latin jazz, rock pop and classical tunes on one his ten guitars! Read below to find out more about Magno’s career!
You’re a long way from home. How did you end up in Japan?
In Peru I was playing in a band when I was 19 years old. I won first place prize in a contest and I went on tour and appeared on a TV show. At that time however, there was inflation in Peru. I wanted to continue playing but couldn’t because of the economic conditions, so I went abroad. At first I wanted to go to America or Europe and then I thought of China or Asia, but Japan had high quality musical instruments and recording studios so I became interested in Japan and came here. I came to Japan in 1991 and lived in Tokyo with friends. I visited Fukuoka a few times back then and I always found the people in Fukuoka were very warm. Then on my third trip to Fukuoka, I stayed.
What have you been doing since you arrived in Japan up to now?
For the first two or three years, I studied Japanese culture because I was quite interested in Asian languages. They are very different from European languages that use the alphabet. Then, I soon made networks around Japan and in Fukuoka in the music industry and that’s how I started working at Love FM, and after my second year in Japan I began to working as a musician.
Tell us about your music career since coming to Fukuoka?
I’ve been working for Love FM for 13 years. I select the music to play which ranges from classical Latin to modern Latin music. I also teach music to children and adults and I get offers to play live around Japan, such as in Tokyo or Osaka.
So where or how can people see or hear you play?
For the past 12 years, the radio show I ran was from 6:30 am to 7 am. Now, I’m on between 8 and 8.30 pm on Tuesday nights. As for gigs, I sometimes play at With The Style Hotel near Hakata Station, but I also do events here and there and it’s best to check my website for up to date details.
What kind of audience tunes in to your radio program?
Most of my listeners are driving in cars on their way back home from work or on their way to work. I think my audience is between 20 and 40 years old and there are also Latin language listeners that tune in too.
Do you get feedback?
I sometimes get messages from listeners by email or fax. Most of the messages are from women who like Latin music or the Spanish language. [Laughing, Magno confirms…] They were not calling for me. They usually want to know the title or the pronunciation of the song and I often get comments that the day’s music selection was very good.
What do you like about your job?
I like everything about it but mostly I enjoy communicating with people through music.
What has been a highlight for you so far?
I have two. The first is personal and it was when I reached the ability to communicate in Japanese and help my friends in Japanese. That made me really happy. The second happened three years ago when I played at the ACROS Symphony Hall and I felt like the entire audience was excited with me. It was quite an emotional concert! Then, just three days ago I had appeared on NHK radio and played a few songs. That was another highlight.
Have you experienced any challenges or difficulties along the way?
I’m too positive! I really can’t say that I’ve faced any…but I guess…organizing my schedule can be a challenge. Sometimes everything happens all in one week!
What kind of music do you play? Is it mostly Flamenco guitar?
No, I also like to fuse styles. For example, when I was given the first prize in a contest in Peru, back then I was playing rock music. I was in a rock pop band but I can also play classical guitar music. I don’t limit myself. I like to play all kinds of styles. I love to improvise and I especially love to play Latin Jazz.
At home, I have ten guitars which I use for various styles. I change my playing style according to the guitar I’m playing. Also, my mind changes to Latin mode when I sing in Spanish and then into Japanese mode when I’m playing Japanese rhythms like those by Misora Hibari. I can play Japanese music because I understand Japanese culture. I think that’s very important.
So, what do you have planned for the future?
I’m currently working at completing my new CD which will be coming out sometime next year. In the meantime I’m interested in supporting other musicians.
Who inspired you to learn the guitar?
There was no one special. I grew up listening to Latin music and in Latin music there is always the sound of the guitar. So, in my body, I knew what good guitar sounds were and I learnt how to play the sounds myself.
Who are your favorite artists / songs and what are you currently listening to?
That’s a really difficult question. When I was five years old, I loved the Beatles. After that I liked James Brown… it’s always changing. Last year, I only listened to Salsa music! These days, I listen to different music every day. I like to listen to new music all the time so at the moment there is no one song or artist that I’m always listening to.
You’re from Peru, but do Japanese people know where Peru is?
[Laughs!] Ten years ago, Japanese people were saying “Peru? Doko?”, “Where is Peru?”, “What do they eat in Peru?”. These days though, people know about Peru through the internet for example, and Machu Pichu is famous. Also, I was recently interviewed by Nishinippon Shimbun about Peru culture and I’m going to be interviewed soon again about the differences between Peruvian and Japanese people.
Can you find Peruvian food in Fukuoka?
In Fukuoka, there aren’t any Peruvian restaurants, but the chef at Sancho Panza in Daimyo is from Peru.
What do you miss most about Peru?
When I was a teenager, I liked to walk around the town at night. I liked to see the changes of the atmosphere in the town so I’d love to do that again. I also miss my family of course.
Finally, what can you tell us about the Latin scene in Fukuoka?
More and more people are becoming interested in Latin culture. For example, I love soccer and this year, Spain was the champion of the World Cup. These days, there are more and more Japanese children wanting to play soccer, so there is definitely more interest. Parents want their children to study Spanish. Ladies from Fukuoka like Latin culture but it’s a current trend that children are beginning to like Spanish culture and Spanish soccer players too. So they want to go on to learn about Spain. Baseball of course is very popular in Japan but I don’t know much about baseball. Go SoftBank Hawks!
Hometown: Lima, Peru
In Japan: 19 years
Identity: Musician, vocal & sound producer
Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn145, Jan. 2011)