Shunji & D’Opus: A Shibuya experience

Tucked away in the corner of Garema place, nested in a pseudo-oriental bohemian setting sits one of the Canberra dance scene’s best kept secrets. As refined and exquisite as the cocktails they serve, resident DJs, Shunji and D’Opus’ smooth delicious sounds provide bliss to the ears and food for the soul to the pre-drinkers and lounge-lovers of Hippo.

With a selection of worldwide beats and determined to deliver future and past reincarnations of soul and jazz, Shunji’s eclectic taste is perfectly suited for Hippo.  His sets range from hip hop, dub and nu-soul through to disco, broken beat and quirky deep house while occasionally stopping by African and Latin tips.  Meanwhile D’Opus’penchant for blending various styles together in a funk-filled balance – from block rockin hip hop to toe-tapping disco – has made him a Canberra favourite for many years now. Also dabbling in a bit of production, D’Opus has been creating his own sounds for over 5 years now with opportunities to test them out in the relaxed Hippo setting. ITM’s palu investigates.

Firstly, why the name ‘Shibuya Saturdays’?  How did this come about?

S: Well, Hippo has this nice oriental vibe happening in there so we wanted a name that would reflect this.  And in Tokyo, Shibuya is one of the districts where you get all kinds of characters, lots of clubs, record stores, etc.  It’s where all the young kids hang out and is just a really happening place.  The name just had a nice ring to it and it stuck.

Should we expect to hear any J-pop records up at Hippo then?

S: Hehe, no sadly not.  But there are a lot of cool records coming out of Japan that you’re likely to hear up there.  You know, downtempo, house and nu-jazz records.  Tokyo has one of the world’s largest jazz markets with a lot of New York garage and Detroit techno exclusives so with that kind of fan base you’re going to get some great producers and labels out of there.

Why did you start a night at Hippo together? 

D: When we first played together we learnt a lot off each other.  Mark (Shunji) introduced me into some sounds coming from the UK and I was always quick to point things out that he would like or spot a sample. I think playing together just seemed like a logical progression.

So describe the kind of music that you guys play at Shibuya Saturdays.

S: Well since we play such a mixed bag of music I’ll try describe it in as few words as possible.  We play past, present and future electric soul.

D: Yeah I’d say we the play electric soul & disco with a little funk and hip-hop rounded out with some jazz and reggae.

Lounge bars are quite common these days, with most putting a token DJ in the corner for background music.  How does Shibuya Saturdays differ from any other bar night?

S: Well a big difference here is that we’re really putting the music first.  With such an intimate place like Hippo you can really get away with playing a lot more interesting music while still keeping the vibe alive.  And since there isn’t really much of a focus on getting a dancefloor, it allows us to concentrate on the quality of music.

D:  It feels more like a house party or a lounge room, people come and talk to us about the music and we don’t act like we know everything but we’re always happy when people comment on the song they liked.

Shunji, you come from more of a house background and D’Opus is better known for playing funk and hip hop.  How does this translate up at Hippo when you’re playing back to back?

S: It works surprisingly well because it keeps things eclectic, always interesting, and it allows you to play off each other’s styles.  We both have a wide range of music and we jump through a range of styles so you can catch myself playing dub and Ross (D’Opus) playing broken beat.  But house isn’t too far from hiphop when you think about it.  House was derived from disco and influenced by soul, funk, jazz and reggae amongst other kinds of music.  Once you break down genre barriers you realize that you can musically go anywhere and still make it all work.

D’Opus, I’ve heard you’ve been dabbling in production lately.  How is that going and are we likely to hear any of your new material up at Hippo?

D:  I have been working on lots of music lately mainly but hip-hop. It’s mostly instrumentals at this stage. I do some breaks and jazz/soul tracks as well and have played some on CD here and there. It’s a strong possibility I will play some more soon, we seem to be playing a lot of bootlegs at Hippo so you may here some of my own mash-ups of some songs that we play.

What musically is interesting to you right now?

S: Well I’ve been getting more into reggae lately but what’s really exciting me now is probably broken beat.  Guys like Bugz in the Attic, Jazztronik, Seiji, Recloose, 4hero, etc. are all killing it right now.  It’s wild, futuristic, broken soul music.  Love it. 

D:  For me its mash-ups. Lots of Reggae, hip-hop & commercial songs, but done differently. I like the sound of a vocal that’s not meant to fit the song somehow fitting the song perfectly.

Name three of your favourite tunes at the moment that are likely to be played in the coming Shibuya Saturdays.

S: Omar – It’s so – brilliant afro-fused broken beat bomb

Recloose – Dust – massive new deep house bump from Detroit via Wellington

 Rebirth – Evil Vibrations – A fantastic disco cover with snippets of De La Soul

D: Amerie – Just one thing – Electrifying vocals + break cut ups from the producer of “crazy in love” Rich Harrison

Upstate – Dangerously In love (Trick me instrumental with Busta Rhymes dangerous vocal over the top) Heat!

Hydrophonic – the Swed ush connection – lovely broken grooves with a hip-hop/soul feel


Catch Shunji and D’Opus together for the first and third Saturday of every month at Hippo. Also check out Shunji playing at Deep Throat  on the 7Th of May at Red Gecko