The Small Print
Faces & Places
The Goods
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Arts & Entertainment
Japan Beat
The Agenda
Dining Out
Table Talk
Local Flavors
International Dining
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
The Last Word
Photo of the Week
About Us
Distribution Points

bar news and views
bar news and views
bar news and views


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: Samurai.fm: 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

By Dan Grunebaum

Toru Yonaha and Kinohachi

On two new albums, a sanshin and a shakuhachi player take opposing tacks to tradition.

credit: Nihon Soft Service Inc.

Amid the ongoing resurgence of interest among young musicians in traditional Japanese music, a range of approaches can be observed. Many, like popular young shimauta (island music) singer Chitose Hajime and gagaku (court music) star Hideki Togi, update time-honored forms by placing them in a pop music context; others take a more orthodox approach.

28-year-old Okinawan minyo folk music sensation Toru Yonaha can play Western instruments such as the guitar and keyboards, but on his new album, Toru Yonaha Presents...Kachashi a Go Go, he sticks to unadorned sanshin (three-stringed Japanese banjo) and vocal numbers taken from the repertoire of Okinawan kachashi dance tunes.

Kachashi are integral to celebrations on Okinawa, and are typified by fleet sanshin playing, accompanied by Okinawan drums, castanets and whistling. Intended as the soundtrack for a kind of exuberant hands-in-the-air folk dance, kachashi originate in the revelries of prewar Okinawan village and beach life.

Toru Yonaha
credit: Respect Records

Yonaha, who has also released albums with Sony, chose to work with boutique label Respect for the first album dedicated entirely to kachashi in over three decades. The songs are arranged in an orthodox style and recorded with a dry production that brings out the tangy timbre of the sanshin and the reedy quality of the vocals of Yoneha and guest singer Mika Uchizato. Both Yoneha and Uchizato come from the Chatan area of Okinawa City, and are steeped in the atmosphere of the local music scene. Kachashi also includes tracks by top composer Tsueo Fukuhara and legendary Okinawan group Nenes, and climaxes with a rousing version of the standard “Toshin Doi,” featuring no less than eight vocalists.

Where Yoneha takes a purist approach to tradition, shakuhachi (bamboo flute) virtuoso Kinohachi seeks to break down the wall between Eastern and Western cultures by situating himself in the context of contemporary electronica. His approach on the new album Iki (Nihon Soft Service) is to steep the exotic Asian flavor of the shakuhachi amid ambient, breakbeats, and trance-flavored rhythm tracks.

This is sometimes successful, in particular on more propulsive tracks such as the breakbeats-driven “Akita Magouta.” But the quality of the production sometimes has a hackneyed, ’90s sound that leaves an impression of New Age aimlessness. One can’t help but feeling that a better producer would have toned down the reverb, delay and other effects and provided a more effective counterpoint to Kinohachi’s inspired improvisations.

Tokyo-born Kinohachi takes his name from his master, Kifu Mitsuhashi, an avant-garde shakuhachi player in the ’60s and ‘70s. Mitsuhashi was one of the first to explore horizons beyond tradition, playing with groups like the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Since his own debut in the early ’90s, the 33-year-old Kinohachi has himself been on a long quest to explore avenues in contemporary music, playing with the rock band Musashi since 1994.

Kinohachi has been a virtual emissary for the shakuhachi, touring South America, playing at the internationally flavored Fuji Rock Festival, and earlier this year completing a circuit of England that included an appearance at the well-known Notting Hill Arts Centre alongside the Sugababes guitarist.

Some may prefer an orthodox approach to tradition, whereas others might like their tradition updated with a heavy dose of contemporary electronica. The mere fact that one can choose indicates that there is still a healthy future for Japanese music forms and instruments with thousands of years of history.

Toru Yonaha plays Aoyama Cay on Dec 26. Kinohachi plays Shibuya O-West on Jan 30. See concert listings for details.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.