“the aim of Secret Asian Man for me was to have a listening album, away from the stage, lights, etc.”
It’s the first time in my tenure as a music journalist that I’ve been palpably bummed out by someone’s success. Not in any morbid or jealous sense of the word, just bummed that the dude I had to interview was out of the country, rocking a festival on Reunion Island. It meant that I didn’t get to meet the man in person. Bummed because the fellow behind artful mash-up/get-down-n-boogie outfit Mr Sakitumi seems like a gentleman in the truest sense. I had to settle with firing off questions through binary pipelines and across oceans.
Mr Sakitumi is Sean Ou Tim, a veritable stalwart of the local music scene. I’m fairly certain that every single reader casting their eye upon this collection of carefully arranged words has been on the receiving end of Sean’s sonic manipulations, even if they have no idea who he is. He has, in his own words, always been ‘the guy in the back, the shadow guy who rarely had to deal with much focus or attention.’ But he’s been there pretty much throughout the development of SA’s burgeoning alternative scene – Max Normal, Lark, Closet Snare to name just a handful – continually upping his rep as one of South Africa’s premier musicians.
Recently, Sean has been craftily side-stepping the shadows, taking his one man band to the stage and to eager ears all around the world. He recently flitted around Europe, dropped back onto local soil briefly then popped off to show the islanders how it’s done. He’s back in Europe in July. In amongst this jet-setting he has found the time to release his debut album as Mr Sakitumi – affectionately titled Secret Asian Man.
A mark of distinction here is that, unlike the majority of electronic music released these days, Mr Sakitumi’s record is the result, not of some guy behind a computer clicking away at the mouse ‘producing’ tunes, but of a wizard fornicating with vibrations, hertz, scales and rhythms. Sean is a consummate musician capable of cutting multiple instruments down to size. He says of his talents, “I grew up in a very musical household, so I was always surrounded by music when I was young. I’m a classically trained pianist, although I don’t bang out many scales, fugues or sonatas these days. From my piano knowledge I was able to learn various instruments, so in a way, I started out self taught. My favourite instrument is my ear….and then bass guitar.” He shares a funny story about being underestimated as a musician, “I chose ‘Mr’ in Mr Sakitumi as I prefer for people to think of me as a live electronic musician and not a DJ. There was this one time in Switzerland, the Grrrl [VJ artist and Sean’s wife] and I were playing at the Loft Café. In the middle of our show, this girl comes up to me to request a song. It would take even longer for me to explain what I actually do (besides the fact that I was in the middle of a song) so I just said to her, ‘if you sing it to me, I’ll hum it right back to you.’”
If you know who Mr Sakitumi is and you’ve been fortunate enough to see him perform, the album might take you by surprise. Taking nothing away from it, as it is a thoroughly engaging piece of work, it is a decidedly more chilled affair than what you may have come to expect. Sean explains that, “the aim of Secret Asian Man for me was to have a listening album, away from the stage, lights, etc. In this way I was able to add some tracks that I don’t even get a chance to perform live, as they are much mellower sounding, but strong in mood and feel.”
I ask him what’s next for Mr Sakitumi – in four words he encapsulates the perfect balance he’s clearly struck between aspiration and relaxation – “Cello and Pina Colada’s.”
Written By : James Rose-Mathew