Puff of smoke

I have taken to watching more documentaries on Netflix this month — well that is until Black Mirror’s Season 5 is out! — and one of them is a mini series of documentary called Explained, which is produced by the people at Vox. Each episode talks about a variety of topics — for example astrology, water crisis, K-pop, political correctness, gender pay gap — and they are often narrated by celebrities such as Carly Rae Jepsen, Yara Shahidi, Samira Wiley, Christian Slater, and many more. Moreover, each episode is just shy of 20 minutes in length and it’s just perfect for me to watch in between writing breaks.

One of the episodes which I liked best talks about music as one of life’s vital forces that has the power to bring everyone regardless of gender, sexuality, backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. together. In the episode it also talks about the components which make up music — here we are introduced to the concept of beat, tempo, rhythm, pitch, harmony, and so on so forth, as well as talking about some few other animals besides humans who can keep a beat. As someone who had never had any formal music education, I really enjoyed getting to know all of these along with the idea that the creation of musical arrangements, like many other work, is a creation of the minds of geniuses and everyday I am in awe of this.

In its season finale, one of the special guests in the show was Jennifer Lee, or better known as the DJ/producer TOKiMONSTA. She talks about her previous struggle with this rare brain disease (TIL) called Moyamoya, which restricted the blood flow to the brain and caused her to lose any comprehension of music. TOKiMONSTA described living with Moyamoya, — literally means “puff of smoke” in Japanese — “I couldn’t tell there was a melody. It just sounded like a white noise.” Her neurosurgeon described her condition as being in a foreign country and not being able to understand what is being said, although recognising that it is a language by itself. TOKiMONSTA also supported this by describing her experience watching the show Portlandia while recovering, knowing she knew that the theme song was a song by itself, but she couldn’t recognise it as music. After undergoing her brain surgery where the neurosurgeon “took an artery from each side of her scalp and placed it on top of her brain”, “now my brain is fed from the top down, instead from the bottom up”, I admit at this point I was already losing track of what is placed where and was just relieved she is safe and cured, and now making such great music.

Song Exploder also has a great episode of TOKiMONSTA breaking down her song, Bibimbap.​​


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