Ohama (Tona Walt Ohama)
Origin: Rainier, Alberta
Tona Walt Ohama grew up on a potato farm in rural Alberta. As a child, he became infatuated with music. When he was a teenager he came across a synthesizer in a music store and immediately purchased it, obsessed with it’s weird unconventional sounds. Shortly afterwards he was introduced to the music of John Foxx and his next big purchase was a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Tona Ohama was first featured on The Found Tapes compilation (2007) with “T.V.” and then on The Minimal Wave Tapes: Volume 1 (2010) with “My Time (Demo)” and most recently on The Minimal Wave Tapes: Volume 2 (2012) with “The Drum”, which was also selected and edited by J. Rocc.
‘Hello. My name is Ohama, and I live on a potato farm in Western Canada.’ It’s hard not to smile during the deadpan opening of Tona Walt Ohama’s ‘The Drum’, but Ohama is deadly serious. Composing entirely from an underground studio beneath his parents’ potato farm in Rainier, Alberta, Ohama formed a one-man synthpop tour de force, putting out a handful of records in the mid 80s that became cult classics. Using then state-of-the-art keyboards, drum machines, vocoders and analogue reel tape, Ohama created complex, evolving songs. Found sounds such as dogs barking, lapping waves, and industrial machinery were blended with audio lifted from news reports and chatshows. Ohama then added his own abstract, cynical lyrics. The result was futuristic, paranoid, ’80s techno.
Lyrically, Ohama expresses themes of paranoia, the mass media, and isolation. Ohama’s technophobia is seemingly at odds with the very techno-centric nature of his music. This conflict is reflected in a dilemma apparently faced by all media-wary, isolated potato farmers in the 80s – television provided the main connection with the outside world, but the image projected by TV was unavoidably biased, or, in Ohama’s words, ‘terribly wonderful’. Ohama offers two solutions for this problem: A) Watch TV with the sound down (not for everyone. Ohama recommends adding your own soundtrack, using large monkey wrenches, kittens, etc.), or B) Put a hockey stick through your T.V. set (perhaps the more traditional Canadian approach, Ohama has been known to do this on stage).
Ohama’s music is surprisingly catchy and listenable considering he cites one of his key influences as industrial noise-makers Einstürzende Neubauten, a band hardly renowned for their accessibility. ’T.V.’ is a complete dancefloor destroyer; dense layers of analogue synthesizers and VHS soundbites are skewered by a driving, infectious bassline. A caustic attack on the vegetative gaudiness of television, Ohama sarcastically sings T.V.’s praises (‘New clip, update, this shit, tastes great, ah ha ha!’). ’The Drum’ is an instrumental techno stomper that appeared recently on The Minimal Wave Tapes: Volume 2 (Stones Throw). It sounds like an army of terrifyingly self-aware combine harvesters advancing menacingly across an expansive potato field.