ON February 3, Toshi Knmk plucked what will be his last bass string in Shanghai for the indefinite future. After 13 years of living and playing rock music in Shanghai, Knmk will be returning to his native Tokyo, leaving a strong imprint on the music scene in Shanghai and broader China.
I would normally feel some sort of conflict about writing extensively about Knmk, as he's someone I've worked with a lot. For over a year beginning in the middle of 2010, we co-promoted rock shows monthly under the banner Trash A Go-Go, and also worked on many other projects. He's also a dear friend.
I don't feel bad about this because it is hard to fathom anyone involved with rock music in Shanghai not working with and being friends with Toshi. His presence has been consistent and ubiquitous, his demeanor unerringly supportive.
Knmk grew up a music fan but not a musician. When he moved to Shanghai, he had never played bass before.
He started by playing in cover bands with fellow expat university students. The bands would play pop punk songs from early 90s bands that they grew up with and loved. He moved on to playing original punk songs with a group cheekily called The Snots.
Knmk then formed the band he found the most success with, The Beat Bandits. The Beat Bandits played retro surf rock at countless shows in Shanghai, and many in other cities.
Starting in 2010, The Beat Bandits played just about every Trash A Go-Go show, which was a monthly rock music party that was always headlined by bands from outside of Shanghai. Trash A Go-Go received much attention from around China, which is especially notable because much of the focus of rock music in China focuses on Beijing.
Trash A Go-Go supported bands from Toshi's native Japan, Mongolia, Norway, the UK, Australia, and more. The bands included legendary British punk band The Buzzcocks, but mostly bands with less mass appeal that likely would never have had the opportunity to come to China without the organizational support of Trash A Go-Go.
Knmk also continued playing in other bands, including after The Beat Bandits broke up in 2012. That included the hardcore punk band The Instigation and sitar-fusion group Hotter Than Teppanyaki. He's also been the manager of comedy girl group The Dudettes.
Through his years here, Knmk did it all in the music scene, and he shared it with others. His magnanimous spirit spoke to others - including myself. Whether playing with one of his acts or just supporting others, he did it all with his signature broad smile.
Knmk is leaving Shanghai, but his personal impact will linger.