Sunday, March 10, 2013

G-Shock #11: Ethno•G Goa Style

Since the beginning of the 80s I’ve been into electronic music. Half the 80’s I bought my first simple synths and joined and started several bands in the local alternative and experimental electronic music scene. At the end of the 80’s the first house tunes were played on alternative radio shows, a new kind of music with, besides the 4 on the floor bass, almost unlimited musical freedom. This was the kind of music I had been looking for.
My favorite kind of house at that time was Acid House, often pretty repetitive electronic, music where the infamous Roland TB-303, designed by Tadao Kikumoto, had a leading role. The late popularity of the TB-303 was a complete surprise, as this bass sequencer was a total flop at the release in 1982. It supposed to emulate a bass guitar sounds, but it does not sound much like it. Only 20000 were produced, until Roland decided to cease production. This bass machine was forgotten until in 1987 Trax records in Chicago releases Phuture’s “Acid Tracks”, a track which actually was played in a rawer version for already 2 years by Ron Hardy (1958 - 1991) in the Music Box, a club in Chicago. Instead of trying to emulate a bass, the sound was put to the foreground while the oscillators were tweeked with the small parameter knobs. The beginning of a cult of Acid. I think it's almost needless to say I have somewhere hidden in my studio also a TB-303.
Now, why this intro. Mid 90’s a new music style gains popularity in the dance scene, Goa Trance. This genre has it’s roots in Goa, India and, although it was for a short time a worldwide success, it’s a kind music you almost only hear at hippie like parties in all kinds of locations in Goa. Characteristic is the high tempo (around 140 BPM) and pulsating repetitive sequences, where the TB-303 is also often used. The tracks are often very long, building up from simple rhythms to complex repeating melodies and percussion, which tries to bring the dancers in a kind of collective state of trance, the same way old cultures reach a state of trance by dance and rhythms.
In August 1998 Casio releases a second series of Ethno•G models. The first series were DW-003E models, released a year earlier, this series are DW-004 models. Remarkable is that these DW-004E models come with the same or similar module as found on the DW-003E models. In this series of 8 models, 4 cultures are highlighted. “Afro-Mania” highlights African Culture, “Chinois-ism”, highlights Chinese cultures, “Folktale-Mix” highlights the old Inca culture and “Goa Style” mixes Hindu culture with more modern Goa culture. The name Ethno is a subtraction of the words Ethnic and Techno (or Technology).
Goa is a small state in West India, with a rich prehistoric history that dates back to even over 20000 years ago, but most influences are Portuguese as they ruled over Goa for 450 years. The most popular tourist attractions are some churches and basilicas, but the main focus of tourism is to the beaches in the coastal area. In the 60’s and 70’s Goa was a popular place for hippies, from who a lot of them settled there. The Goa Trance culture can be seen as a modern revival of the hippie culture.
Photo taken from Yahoo Japan, which I also posted in my Ethno•G "Afrio-Mania" article of August 2011, showing the original plastic container.
When I researched the background of the “Afro-Mania” G-Shock, which I featured here in 2011, I I stumbled upon this nice looking orange “Goa-Style” DW-004E-4DT. When I saw there was a funny elephant in the EL backlight, I thought, this is the nicest model of the series. Even more, I think it is the best looking DW-004 I know right now! It became an instant grail. Only problem, this series is probably only released in Japan. I havens seen an Ethno•G that was originally sold outside japan. It’s a common series in Japan, so it is relative easy to find a model of these series on Yahoo Japan. The search becomes harder if you want to have a specific model, but if you look around from time to time and have a friend or an agent like “From Japan that can help you out, it doesn’t have to be that difficult to find. From the times I searched on Yahoo Japan, before I found this one, I had seen this particular model several times. Let’s say there was a 30 - 50% chance of finding it in a random search. They are also relative cheap. With the help of a good friend, I was the only bidder on this watch and got it for ¥4000 Yen. The only problem on these cheap transactions is that the costs are relative high. It has to be sent to me friend and specially the international shipping is high. With the fees and shipping costs I got it here for just over ¥8000. Not bad for a watch I consider to be a grail watch. On the other hand, I now know the ¥4000 yen is almost the fixed price for getting a watch from Yahoo Japan to me in The Netherlands (a large part of this price is simply shipping).
The DW-004E-4DT comes with a hippie culture inspired double Velcro strap, which has a tie-dyed under strap and an upper strap with a pattern of flowers and elephants. The Elephant that appears on the strap and in the display, when the EL backlight is activated, is the Hindu god Ganesha. He’s the god of knowledge, wisdom, he removes obstacles and protects travelers. The reason why the son of Shiva and Parvati has an Elephant head is a mystery, because there are many different stories. One of them is that Genesha liked rest and to be let alone and Shiva was away for a long period being at war. When Shiva returned home, he saw a stranger, so he beheaded him, before learning it was his own son. He ordered his staff to bring the head of the first living creature they could find. When they brought back an elephant head, he put it on the body of his son and brought him back to life. Other stories are that he was born this way and that he got this elephant head when Shiva was laughing hard.
The watch has the typical DW-004 case, but it comes with a 1597 module, a module which is usually found on the DW-003 models. The DW-1597 is a pretty basic module. It comes with an Alarm function with Hourly Signal, a 24 Hour Stopwatch and a 24 hour Countdown Timer. The Alarm can be programmed to a certain date, or, when one of the digits is left blank, you can create a 1-Month or a Monthly Alarm. These all are pretty basic functions, which you find on most basic 90's G-Shocks, but these are actually also the functions I use most in daily life.
There is a little eye at the top left position of the display. A star like icon shows the Flash Alarm has been toggled on (default). When activated, the Flash Alarm lights up the EL shortly whenever an Alarm sounds (not on button sounds). You can toggle this Flash Alarm of by press and holding the lower right (START-STOP) button.
The strap of this watch is very comfortable. As the under strap is not very thick, it is probably also comfortable during hot weather. The thick elastic types sometimes can become a bit irritating warm during hot weather. The Velcro closing of the under strap gives you the freedom to adjust the strap the way you want it, as you are not tied to buckle holes or bracelet links. The upper strap is more a kind of security closing to keep the under strap closed.
Like I wrote above, the DW-004E-4DT is a very nice looking watch, which, with help from friends or services in Japan, can be obtained for relative low prices.  For almost 2 years, it was my grail watch. While some (specially noob collectors) have special rare brand collabs as their grails, for me it often are older models in nice color combo's or with a cool EL design. I did a small search on Yahoo Japan recently and saw several models of this series for about the same price I bought mine. Note that there are always additional costs when buying from Japanese auctions and shipping outside Japan. I would have loved it if it was possible to buy directly from the sellers in Japan, but due to the different banking system and the huge language barrier it will probably take years before this is possible. Until that time, it is good to know good friends in Japan.

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