Oto means ‘noise’ or ‘music’ in Japanese and that is exactly what you get at this truly amazing and innovative venue.
By day it is a mild-mannered café serving home-baked cakes, craft beers, teas, coffees, organic fruit juices, cider and wines but then, when the lights go out and the cafe closes for a couple of hours for the soundchecks, Oto turns into the home of the experimental musician and easily fulfills its stated aim of ‘providing a home for creative new music that exists outside of the mainstream’.
Past performers include Yoko Ono, London Improvisors Orchestra, Joe McPhee, Marshall Allen, Matthew Herbert and, amazingly and thrillingly, The Sun Ra Arkestra!
It’s jazz. It’s African. It’s Japanese. It’s experimental. It’s ambient. It’s deep. It’s global. And while some of the bigger names mean larger fees most gigs are around £10, but check the website first as the venue is small and gigs regularly sell out in advance.
These three venues are about 500 yards apart and between them they cover the folky side of jazz (SJQ), the more traditional (Vortex) and the avant garde (Oto). Jazz has definitely found a cool home (or three) in E8. The Guardian even went to find out more about Oto as Italian Vogue had named it as the coolest venue in Britain!!