Everyone is influenced by someone. Whether it’s a student learning the fundamentals from an adept teacher, a teacher stepping up their game under the tutelage of a master, or any other small step along the way, there’s always something to learn from someone else.
Well, what about those above the masters? The legendary figures bestowed with inhuman talents, or the paragons whose skills, abilities, and knowledge eclipse that of even the experts, prodigies, and champions? Every craft has them: Lebron James, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare. Where do they turn to when they need an influence?
Both formed in 1976, the names Casiopea and T-SQUARE may not ring a bell, but their music just might. Unbeknownst to even well-versed audiophiles, Casiopea and T-SQUARE continue to be two of the most influential bands in modern musical history, directly inspiring the likes of Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo, and Hiroshi Kawaguchi, the musical composers behind some of the largest video game franchises of all time. If you grew up playing games like Mario, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Gran Turismo, Street Fighter, or any other Japanese game developed during the 80s or 90s, you’ve undoubtedly heard the influences of Casiopea and T-SQUARE.
In 2003, Casiopea and T-SQUARE came together for a day to perform a live concert titled “Casiopea vs T-SQUARE.” Featuring two electric guitars, two electric keyboards, two drum sets, two electric basses, one piano, and one saxophone, Cassiopeia and T-SQUARE played as one band, rotating between songs from each other’s discography.
It has a more fast-paced feel than the previous song—now everyone’s getting their chance to improvise and show off their chops. From now until the end of the performance, it’s a field day for the incredibly skilled musicians.
After nearly three hours of non-stop jamming, Casiopea and T-SQUARE started their two final songs. The first minutes consists of the soulful T-SQUARE song “Japanese Soul Brothers,” with Takeshi Itoh and Hirotaka Izumi taking the spotlight. Itoh, on the Saxophone, and Izumi, on the piano, go back and forth, Itoh playing a more upbeat section while Izumi changes the pace to a slower tempo. However, at around the two minute mark, Casiopea and T-SQUARE explosively transition to their next song, “Fightman.” It has a more fast paced feel than the previous song—now everyone’s getting their chance to improvise and show off their chops. From now until the end of the performance, it’s a field day for the incredibly skilled musicians.
It starts off with bass players Yoshihiro Naruse of Casiopea and Mitsuru Sutoh of T-Square competing on the stage four bars at a time. Improvisation after improvisation, Suto and Naruse battle to and fro, showing off their dexterity and expertise.
Occasionally during the improvisational sections, they quote well-known songs and artists like “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Smoke on the Water, ” pianist Richard Tee, and Mozart’s “Sonata Facile.” Despite being great musicians, they are more than capable of integrating other artists and songs into their own playing, showing that they are open to taking inspiration from everywhere.
Becoming the best is also about learning to take inspiration from everyone, no matter their skill level or their genre.
Usually we think that when you become the best, you hit a ceiling and there’s nowhere else to go, but what can we take away from T-SQUARE’s and Casiopeia’s performance? Becoming the best is also about learning to take inspiration from everyone, no matter their skill level or their genre.
Even when you’re at the top, there’s always more to learn.