The Most Bizarre Music Instrument Manufacturers In Japan

<p>Maywa Denki are known for wild, crazy instrument designs and their latest creation, <span class="caps">OTAMATONE</span>, is no exception.</p>

Xue Tan

Japanese music group Maywa Denki, formed by the Tosa brothers in the ‘90s, manufactures the most bizarre musical instruments and strange gadgets. In its original incarnation, Maywa Denki was initially founded by the brothers’ father in the 1960s as a small scale electronics company, but quickly went bankrupt in the ’70s. Decades later, the Tosa brothers decided to pick it up again in an attempt to restore the family legacy, but this time with a more musical and artistically-inclined direction.

These days, the “art unit” operates as a multi-disciplinary conceptual electronics company whose work spans product and instrument design, live performance, art exhibitions, and toy manufacturing. They wear working suits on stage, call each other “director”, “manager” or “staff,” each piece of their work is deemed a “product” and each performance a “product demonstration.” And from the looks of their whimsical and inventive “products,” one would think that these two brothers were operating a Willy Wonka factory of musical instruments.

After 20 years of development, their products have become extremely popular worldwide, in particular the Knockman Toys, which rose to popularity on the tails of the vinyl toy trend. All of Maywa Denki’s gadgets and instruments are inspired by elements that one would not typically associate with music-making or re-imagine ways one could combine existing instruments to make something wholly new and exciting. Some of their popular past series include the “Naki Series” of fish-motif nonsense machines, the “Tsukuba Series” of musical instruments, and the “ArtClassy Series” of Maywa Denki lifestyle products, which include a watch and a lamp.

The Knockman Family of toys.

Over the course of the next two months, Input/Output gallery in Hong Kong will transform into a shop showcasing Maywa Denki’s products. The exhibition will feature their latest creation, the OTAMATONE, a tadpole shaped instrument controlled by sliding your fingers up and down the tadpole’s stem and by spinning his head. The series includes various sizes and even recently launched its own iPhone application, which means that fans can take the OTAMATONE with them anywhere and audiences will be able to interact with Maywa Denki via the app at their upcoming concert in April.

Check out more of their wonderfully absurd “nonesense machines” on their website.