Welcome to Dekotora, Japan’s decorative truck craze

Any American who’s watched TV in the last 10 years knows about the custom wheels featured on shows like Pimp My Ride or American Chopper. But despite all the crazy cars that have been built with plasma TV’s inside and motorcycles tricked out to look like robots, it seems they’ve got nothing on a very unique decorative truck-building craze in Japan called Dekotora.

Dekotora, a Japanese abbreviation for “decorative truck,” is a category of elaborately decorated vehicles built by hobbyists in Japan. These brilliant rigs, decked out in blinding UV and neon lights, shiny decorative metal parts and wild neon colors, are built by passionate Japanese truckers looking to get some attention and show off at special events. They look less like drive-able vehicles than life-size Transformer robots, ready to lift off the road and head into battle. Interestingly enough, many attribute the start of the craze to the 1970’s, when a Japanese film series called the “Truck Guys” featured a protagonist with a wildly decorated rig driving around the country.

This passion for custom vehicles isn’t just limited to Japan. In India, rickshaw drivers add custom mud flaps to their rides featuring in Bollywood film stars. And in Thailand, bus drivers have been known to deck out their coaches with airbrushed cartoon characters and elaborate fantasy scenes. Apparently the international driving community is much more artistic than you might expect! Seen any crazy vehicle art during your own travels? Tell us about it in the comments.

[Photo courtesy of Viernest]

Round the World in 80 Sounds: What’s World Music?

What is World Music? How has such a bland, vague term come to describe the rich and divergent music of thousands of cultures, from sub-Saharan Gnawa to Colombian Cumbia and Tuvan Throat Singing? For too long, it’s been the descriptor anywhere we buy or hear international music, from record stores to digital outlets like iTunes, relegating hundreds of diverse artists to a single heap because of their “otherness.” In fact, World Music is a Western term describing music outside the traditional “pop music canon:” the familiar American and European bands that long-dominated our radios and laptops. But World Music is on its way out: a hunger for the varied sounds from around the globe is rising to take its place.

The term “World Music” is a relatively recent phenomenon. Coined by a musicologist by the name of Robert E. Brown in the 1960’s, it was created to describe styles of ethnic or folk music found in more remote corners of the globe. World Music actually worked OK for much of the last 50 years, as long as the Western World remained the center of economic, political and cultural force. In the 20th Century, the West dominated the global airwaves, with icons like Michael Jackson and The Beatles winning hearts and record players from Bogota to Beijing. But by the end of the 90’s, it was clear the term was increasingly irrelevant.

As we push into the 21st Century, the Western dominance of the global music scene has waned. A new global musical consciousness springs up in its place, driven by the power of a global economy and music distribution systems where digital files and streaming videos are the norm. The hot sounds of 2010 don’t just come from New York and London – instead, rhythms ricochet across the globe, from Angola to Argentina and to Angkor Wat, finding eager listeners and receptive audiences in the farthest corners of our planet. It’s not just that music lovers are just discovering new global favorites, it’s also having a profound impact on what we listen to at home. The DNA of this global music phenomenon has worked its way into the music of our favorite singers and bands, from M.I.A. to Shakira to Vampire Weekend.

The global phenomenon of music is also tied to travel. Wherever we go, music permeates our consciousness, buzzing from tinny taxi radios, echoing off the chambers of metro tunnels and pumping from giant speakers. But alluring as it may be, discovering global music can also be confusing and intimidating. There are enough countries, artists and weird musical genres to make your head spin. What’s a traveling music-lover to do?

Today we’re unveiling a new feature here at Gadling called “Round the World in 80 Sounds.” The phenomena of global travel and music are inextricably intertwined. Each Thursday over the course of the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking a look at some of the world’s most fascinating music personalities, emerging musical trends and musically inclined destinations. We’ll introduce you to new styles of music you haven’t heard, and help you to take a fresh look at some of your old favorites with a global eye. What qualifies as World Music in 2010? Everything and nothing, it seems, all at once. Prepare to take a journey into the fascinating world of music today as we head Round the World in 80 Sounds.

Curious about the sounds of the world? Read future Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.

18 unique travel experiences for the well traveled

So you think you’ve been everywhere and done everything? Is their something missing when you travel these days? Is the sense of adventure gone? Never fear, because the Times Online has compiled an interesting list of 18 unique travel experiences that are designed to give us a special experience on our getaways.

The suggestions on the list run the gamut from adventurous to decadent to down right surreal. For instance, if you’re headed to southern Africa, then you might want to stay with the bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, where you’ll have the opportunity to go on an initiation hunt and spend the night in their village. If that seems like you might be roughing it a bit too much, than perhaps you’d prefer to spend the night on a private island and go sailing off the coast of Croatia. How about taking an exclusive tour of Nefertari’s Tomb in Egypt, where you’ll be one of just 20 visitors in the soon to be closed monument. Or, how about the workout of a lifetime when you’ll be training with the the toughest rugby team on the planet, New Zealand’s All Blacks, , for one very intense week.

Each of the travel experiences comes with a good description of what you can expect on your unique adventure. A link is included to the travel company that is offering the trip, along with expected prices, in this case listed in pounds. But be warned, these one-of-a-kind experiences don’t come cheap, but how do you put a price tag on this kind of excitement?

Strike Shuts Down Bollywood

Over 100,000 Indian TV and film workers went on strike in Mumbai today. They are protesting unfair wages and the prevalent practice of hiring non-union crew members. Some of the industry’s biggest stars, like Shah Rukh Khan, showed solidarity by agreeing to not cooperate with movie studios until the strike ends. Union members complain that studios and production companies have not honored an agreement which they signed nearly two years ago.

This is bad news for fans of the epic song-and-dance-filled melodramas. Most of the industry’s highly anticipated, big-budget productions were slated to hit theaters in the upcoming months. Now their releases are in doubt. Also on ice are the productions of insanely popular TV soap operas. The bottom line: if you are traveling to India and dreaming of taking part in a Bollywood film (like Sylvester Stallone) or are a connoisseur of Indian TV, hold your breath (or, rather, don’t). Surely theaters won’t be closing down or TV going off their air, but it’ll be reruns until the studios and unions make nice.

Gadling Take FIVE – August 9–August 15

Yesterday afternoon I was on a WiFi quest with no luck, so here’s the
Take FIVE a day later.

While I was on my WiFi quest with no luck, Gadling welcomed a new blogger. Meg Massie has an interesting way to get around the world. Her husband is a professional bridge player. Meg travels for other reasons too. Bridge is just one of them.

Along with the welcome addition of Meg, there have been a mix of culture related posts from entertainment to food, plus, there is a new feature thread called Gadling Covers the Olympics.

From the humor angle: If you missed Jerry’s post on Stephen Colbert’s tour of the Cantons of America, here it is. Along with poking fun at Canton, Ohio (on the list of the top five cities that are dying in the United States), Colbert also pokes fun at other towns called Canton.

  • From the gastronomic angle:Jefferey lamented the absence of his beloved döner, Turkish kebabs from Concierge.com’s list of the world’s best street foods
  • From the cinematical angle: Josh pointed out the popularity of Indian musical movies in Africa and wonders how much Bollywood will take over Hollywood’s place here.
  • From the musical angle: Aaron pointed us in the direction of Asian music that has gained a following
  • And, from a capturing an aspect of culture yourself angle: Scott posted on great price on a Fuji camera.