Nathan Kawanishi

Seattle, USA & Tokyo, Japan

A Pull to Life Offshore


Behind the Music

There’s a question that has been posed by many for years—what level of obligation do we have to help those marginalized and exploited among us? What responsibility do we have to consider all the implications of seemingly benign actions? After reading The Outlaw Ocean, these queries are more relevant than ever. Ian’s book puts forth no easy answers, no single entity to blame and no simple solutions, which is something I deeply appreciate. These stories don’t serve any single agenda. Rather, they are a test of our empathy and willingness to wrestle with these topics and challenge our views of morality and responsibility. Ultimately, I hope people take them time to consider their actions and the role they play in perpetuating these issues, in turn leading to collective global action.

When I was first approached about this project, I anticipated my music to be somber and contemplative. However, as I read, I noticed different feelings arising—anger, frustration, and urgency. I wanted my songs to convey these emotions, while also feeling intricate, calculated and controlled. I also wanted my contributions to feel unique to Ian’s book. I tried to tie in many textures from Ian’s field recordings, re-sampling and re-structuring them to be crucial parts of the song. Normally, the “sound of the ocean” is thought of as peaceful and relaxing. I wanted to challenge that perception with my music, just as Ian does with his reporting.

Nathan Kawanishi
About Nathan Kawanishi

Nathan Kawanishi is an up-and-coming producer, musician, singer-songwriter and rapper based in the US and Tokyo. His musical style is diverse, influenced by hip hop, lofi, alternative, indie and traditional Japanese music. Before he began producing beats, he sang and played guitar, bass, keys and percussion for gigs and open mics with friends, while doing live sound and audio engineering on the side. He took Japanese ensemble for three semesters in university, playing the koto.

His beats are characterized by infectious melodies and riffs overlaid on gritty hip-hop drums and heavily layered background instrumentation. While releasing dozens of songs in 2019 & 2020, he amassed over 33 million streams in two years and has been featured on some of the biggest lofi and instrumental playlists on the internet.

When he’s not producing music, he enjoys traveling, street photography, graphic design, listening to podcasts and helping organizations that are focused on community empowerment.

The Journalism behind the Music

All music in this project is based on The Outlaw Ocean, a New York Times Best-Selling book by Ian Urbina that chronicles lawlessness at sea around the world. This reporting touches on a diversity of abuses ranging from illegal and overfishing, arms trafficking at sea, human slavery, gun running, intentional dumping, murder of stowaways, thievery of ships and other topics.

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