Amazon Oshogatsu Behind The Scenes
Apr 8, 2021
‘Oshogatsu’ is a three-day national holiday in Japan celebrating the start of the New Year. It is a time for family, festivity and anticipation of the year ahead. These are the emotions that we sought to capture through music and sound for Amazon Japan’s New Year Sale campaign at the end of 2020.
Amagasaki in Hyōgo Prefecture is known for two things; being the hometown of Formula One legend Kamui Kobayashi and playing host to one of Asia’s largest logistics warehouses called ‘ESR Amagasaki’. Our journey to create a playful and charming soundtrack for this Amazon campaign started on the bullet-train heading west from Tokyo to ESR Amagasaki. The campaign features animated Amazon boxes, brought to life as characters celebrating the Oshogatsu festival together and Syn’s concept to echo this metamorphosis was to create music and sound for the campaign out of the boxes themselves. As anyone with children will know (or remember from their own childhood), percussion can be made from almost anything: pots and pans, radiators, wine glasses and most certainly Amazon boxes, and by using a range of different mallets and sticks, the sounds of these boxes were brought to life by Syn producer and percussionist, Kazuyuki Haga.
Inspired by elements of traditional Japanese folk songs, percussion played the lead role in creating the score for this track but where does ESR Amagasaki come into it? Well - as one of Asia’s largest logistics warehouses - it has one thing that musicians love: space. It is said that the world’s longest natural reverb was recorded in Scotland in a disused Oil Depot, lasting 112 seconds. Whilst ESR Amagasaki thankfully doesn’t have quite that envelope, the vast warehouse structure added a natural reverb to the percussion that brought the sounds to life and helps give the percussion a characterful spaciousness.
Returning to Tokyo from Amagasaki, the Syn team, embarked upon creating additional sound design for the campaign, creating diegetic sounds for the ‘Oshogatsu’ scenery, as well as character sounds for the boxes themselves. Recording Sake Bottles, Masking Tape, Amazon Boxes and more, the sound design started to create a dynamic environment with which the scene is set through audio
As well as creative sound design, talented voice artist and long-time Syn collaborator, Rudi Rok, recorded character sounds remotely from his home-town of Helsinki, Finland, helping to personify the cheeky Amazon box characters with squeaks, breaths and laughs, whilst Syn’s CEO & Creative Director, Nick Wood, contributed whistling, further bringing the soundscape to life and emphasising the friendliness and wholesomeness of this New Year’s scene.
Having created a soundscape and sonic ‘bed’ for the campaign, a careful choice of song was crucial to its success in connecting with an audience. Wherever we are in the world, certain songs are embedded into our culture; songs that are instantly recognisable and carry with them a sense of nostalgia and recognition. For this campaign, Syn chose to rearrange one such song, named after the festival itself. ‘Oshogatsu’ is traditionally sung by children in anticipation of The New Year, and features the words, “How many more sleeps to New Year”? For a Japanese audience, this song holds significance and tradition, evoking a feeling of family, nostalgia and childhood, bringing authenticity to this local campaign and further honouring the wholesome celebration of ‘Oshogatsu’. Our next step was to find the appropriate singers to perform this song, and inhabit the characters of the Amazon Boxes.
Syn’s network of native speaking and bilingual Japanese talent stretches far and wide, with one of our bilingual vocalists working remotely from L.A. to record vocals for this campaign. Alongside a chorus of four other lead singers, a magical ensemble of voices was created to play the characters of the Amazon boxes. This included the charming voice of 7 year old [called ‘Rin’], who sang the part of the smallest member of the Amazon box family. Using an ensemble of different voices - mixed by style, gender and age - we created a feeling of community, echoing the collective spirit of the New Year festivities.
The music and sound for this campaign combines the old with the new, the past with the future and tradition with modernity. With highly recognisable, traditional Japanese imagery at the heart of this campaign, it was crucial for Syn to put authenticity at the heart of the soundtrack, whilst giving it a modern and fresh vision. By channeling the sound of the brand itself (Amazon’s Boxes), alongside a Japanese folk song sung by Japanese voices, the music brings warmth and a familiar glow to the sonic landscape of the animation and encourages the audience to believe in the world they are seeing on screen. From Tokyo to Amagasaki to LA and back again, the journey of creating the music and sound for this campaign combined creative talents far and wide, but central to this project was a good concept; the idea of taking sounds of the everyday and bringing them to life. Particularly during the pandemic, there has been no shortage of Amazon boxes coming through our doors, and this campaign reminds us that there are sonic possibilities in everything, from our own voices to bottles of sake and beyond!
Syn's campaign for Amazon has since won a Gold Award at AVA Awards and a Bronze Award at ADFEST, with animation partner Onesal winning two Awards (Silver and Bronze) at ADFEST. For more information, please contact [email protected]