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776: Yoko Ono
775: Boredoms
772: Kurofunedan
768: Merzbow
766: Oshiripenpenz
765: YMCK
763: Shizuka Kudo
762: Mo’some Tonebender
761: Soil & “Pimp” Sessions
756: Tokyo Conflux 2008
754: Ed Woods
753: 8otto
751: Para
750: Fuji Rock Festival 2008
748: Katan Hiviya
745: Who the Bitch
742: Low IQ 01
740: Shake Forward!
738: iLL
736: Tobu Ongakusai
733: Yanokami
731: One Night in Naha
729: Shugo Tokumaru
727: Japan Nite
725: Getting out the vote
723: J-Melo
721: Electric Eel Shock
717: GO!GO!7188
715: Yura Yura Teikoku
712: Midori
710: Seigen Ono
708: Wrench
707: Shinichi Osawa
704: M-flo
701: Freesscape
699: Versailles
698: Fuji Rock Festival 2007
697: Uri Nakayama
695: UA
693: Shonen Knife
690: Kemuri
689: Ikochi
686: Best Japanese Albums
684: Monkey Majik
682: Shibusashirazu Orchestra
681: Jon Lynch and Juice magazine
677: DJ Kentaro
675: Sadistic Mikaela Band
673: Osaka Monaurail
672: Teriyaki Boyz featuring Kanye West
666: Oki
662: Amanojaku
659: Polysics
657: Oceanlane
655: Cornelius
651: Bomb Factory
642: Soul Flower Mononoke Summit
640: African JAG
637: Buffalo Daughter
635: Ryukyu Underground
633: Mazri no Matsuri
631: Mono
629: Coldfeet
628: Crystal Kay
625: J-pop goes def
623: Ken Yokoyama
621: Zazen Boys
619: Monday Michiru
613: PE’Z
611: Afrirampo
609: Sherbets
603: Double Famous
601: Meltone
599: Michiyo Yagi
597: Hifana
594: Guitar Wolf
592: Rip Slyme
590: Little Creatures
588: Bliss Out on Hougaku
586: Hoppy Kamiyama
584: Bliss Out on Hougaku
582: Mazri no Matsuri
580: Mari Natsuki
575: Towa Tei
573: The Beautiful Losers
571: Fantastic Plastic Machine
569: Nippop
567: Brahman
560: Shonen Knife
558: Nice Guy Jin
556: Toru Yonaha and Kinohachi
554: Hiromi Uehara
551: Nicotine
549: Ego-Wrappin'
545: Eastern Youth
538: Inside tracks
536: Outside the Box
534: Rainbow Warrior
529: Breaking the mold
527: Sadao China
524: The sound of cyberpunk
522: Ryuichi Sakamoto's Chasm
516: Ken Yokoyama
514: Jan Linton
512: Jazz messengers
509/10: Naoko Terai
507: Akiko Yano
504: Kotaro Oshio: Solo Strings
502: Refurbished rhythms
494: Resonance
492: cyber-swordsmen
490: Loop Junktion
488: Ryukyu Underground: Okinawan Odyssey
484: Gocoo: Reinventing taiko
481: Leonard Eto
479: Gaijin à Go-Go
477: Enemy music
475: Yoriko Ganeko with Chuei Yoshikawa
472: DJ Kaori
469: Yuki
467: Wrench
464: Young and swingin
462: Jazzy Live 2003 from Blue Breath
460: Shonen Knife
457/458: Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden
456: Yuka Kamebuchi & The Voices of Japan
454: Jude
452: Kokoo
451: BBQ Chickens
449: Man and the machinery
446: Crystal Kay
443: Lava
440: Jazz on Leave
437: Rip Slyme
434: Boom Boom Satellites
432: "Rambling" Steve Gardner
430: Dry & Heavy
428: The Birth of OE
426: Anmitsu
424: Happy Kamiyam
422: Shing02
420: Supercar
418: Ryuichi Sakamoto
416: Kick The Can Crew
414: King Brothers
412: Kazufumi Miyazawa
410: Japanese Independent Music
408: The Yoshida Brothers
406: Love Psychedelico
393: Mikidozan
391: Shelter 10th Anniversary
389: The beautiful losers
387: Junpei Shiina
383: Umekuichi
381: P'ez
379: Boredoms
377: Dai Sakakibara
375: Dreams Come True
373: eX-Girl
370: Pizzicato Five
368: Dub Squad
366: Buffalo Daughter
364: Phew Phew L!ve
362: Fumio Yasuda
360: Boom Boom Satellites
358: Kei Kobayashi
356: Cool Drive Makers
354: Bird
351: United Future Organization
349: Audio Active
347: Ondekoza
345: Misia
343: Brahman
341: Puffy
339: Ryukyu Festival 2000
337: Rappagariya
335: Lisa Ono
333: Air Jam 2000
331: Feed
327: Tenkoo Orchestra
325: Wrench
323: Sadao Watanabe
321: Dry & Heavy
319: Bonny Pink
317: Sakura Hills Disco 3000
315: Aco
313: Rovo
311: The Mad Capsule Markets
309: Coldfeet

Sadao China

Sadao China (r) with Seijin Noborikawa

A musician, producer, singer, teacher, bar owner and festival organizer, Sadao China is perhaps best described as a local legend in his native Okinawa. The 49-year-old took up the sanshin, a banjo-like instrument similar to the Japanese shamisen, 37 years ago. His teacher was, and still is, Seijin Noborikawa. Often described as the Jimi Hendrix of the sanshin, Noborikawa has had a prolific recording career spanning over five decades. He has also seen his fame spread throughout Japan, starring in two movies in the ’90s.

The two living legends of Okinawan minyo (traditional music) have withstood the test of time in the Okinawan music scene. Their first joint recording comes at a time when popular Okinawan music has come under the spotlight with young artists such as Rimi Natsukawa and Chitose Hajime offering something unique in the otherwise derivative J-Pop market.

China’s 1977 debut, Akabana (Red Flowers), enjoyed moderate success, blending the seemingly juxtaposed genres of Okinawan minyo and pop. “Akabana was released at a time when Okinawan youth were looking to the then fashionable Tokyo for inspiration,” China explains in a recent interview. “I felt that Okinawan music was in peril. Mixing pop and Okinawan folk music was my attempt to preserve it.”

But this mix sat uncomfortably with China and he soon decided to focus solely on traditional music. A return to his roots seemed to be the most authentic way to achieve his dual goals of cultural and musical preservation.

China’s involvement with the acclaimed Okinawan folk pop group Nenes built on this theory. He formed, produced, wrote and played with the group, which performed sell-out shows in Japan and at renowned international festivals such as WOMAD.

Nenes may have disbanded, but the music continues for China. The collaboration with Noborikawa has significance that goes beyond music. “This album has special meaning for me,” he says. “I betrayed him many times. He often criticized me too. But our problems were resolved on this album.”

The album also ushers in a new era of Okinawan minyo. Noborikawa, now 74, has symbolically recognized China as the new leading figure of Okinawan music, as is custom when a traditional musician becomes too old or ceases playing.

†Customs, cultural preservation and morality are themes that resonate throughout the album. One track, “Shin Densa Bushi” is a Noborikawa composition that stresses the importance of respect and traveling on the right path. China has taken this track to heart and is intent on doing the right thing by his mentor and culture.

Asked what the future holds now that he bears such responsibility, China chuckles and says, “I have to practice a lot harder!”
Noborikawa Seijin & China Sadao is out now on Respect Record.

By John Wood