Songs from Okinawa


On Songs from Okinawa, Sven Kacirek searches for traces of a unique, traditional music of the famous Pacific islands in the south of Japan. He has recorded various musicians -- amateurs as well as local celebrities -- and subsequently added his trademark instruments marimba, xylophone, and piano. The result is an incomparable album of timeless beauty and elegance. The South Japanese archipelago of Okinawa has seen quite a turbulent past. Anciently attached to the Chinese kingdom and then torn between Japan and America in the context of World War II, their complex history has resulted in an exceptionally rich musical tradition through the centuries. With the influence of American culture during the US army occupation of the islands, the Okinawans started mixing traditional songs with Western music styles. In Japan Okinawan music is now considered a genre of its own. "I'm fascinated by the sublime simplicity and precision of Okinawan Music, from the orchestration to the phrasing of the singing voice," says Kacirek. This album offers intimate insights into both Kacirek's art of composition and the outstanding sonic heritage of instrumental and vocal techniques in Okinawa. In its gentle style, with asymmetrical chord progressions and highly dynamic volume proportions, Songs from Okinawa challenges listening habits and develops its strength in the gaps and pauses. "My goal was to add something new to traditional Japanese music without banishing the ghosts of the old songs," says Kacirek. It is an artistic approach similar to his 2011 album The Kenya Sessions (PING 020CD), on which he juxtaposed musicians whom he had met and recorded in villages in Kenya with his own drumming and composition. The main difference is that this time Kacirek has completely maintained the basic arrangements of the recorded songs, which were performed by Mr Tonohara, Tadashi Haraguchi, Tetsuhiro Daiku, Mina Mermoud, Shigeo Arakaki, Keiko Kina, Hiroji Yokome, Mrs. Uesedo, and Sadako Yokome. With Songs from Okinawa Kacirek returns to the Pingipung label after releases on famous imprints like Honest Jon's, Bureau B, and Naïve. The comprehensive liner notes give further information about the musical culture of Okinawa, the recording sessions, and the lyrics of the songs. Kacirek's busy touring schedule has included performances with Nils Frahm, Ogoya Nengo, and Hauschka; this release comes in advance of concerts with musicians from Okinawa as well as an event with Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet) and a European tour with John McEntire (Tortoise) and Stefan Schneider.