Toru Yonaha began his tour to promote the new album Ninufa ~ Polaris in Okinawa last night at Mod’s Live House, Chatan. In front of a large audience Yonaha performed a predictably varied set which included some of the traditional Okinawan minyo for which he is famous as well as kachashi dance pieces, his lively ‘Shin Eisa Bushi’, some classical Ryukyu music, and some original songs. The versatility didn’t stop there as he also sang a version of the Spitz song ‘Yoake’ and his recent cover of Soul Flower Union’s ‘Mangetsu no Yube’.
For much of the evening Yonaha was accompanied by Yoshiaki Nagamine on acoustic guitar and the pair managed to successfully recreate the fuller sound of many tracks from the new album. The fact that Yonaha is already a master of just about every Okinawan style could have meant a lack of focus but no-one was complaining as his sheer artistry and musical power shone through with everything he tried.
As well as some breathtaking sanshin playing there was some remarkable singing and when he was alone with the sanshin he seemed to be at his very best. Not surprisingly, he returned for a two song encore, finishing the evening with ‘Arigakutou’ his own co-written song from the new album.
One of the best things about the performance was that Yonaha played his set all the way through without the usual distracting break in the middle when audience members are urged to buy food and drinks. He also largely dispensed with the lengthy introductions and between-song chat which is so common in Okinawa and Japan. Instead he established a good rapport with the audience early on, gave us just the right amount of information without going on about it, and concentrated on providing everyone with a superlative musical show.
Toru Yonaha continues his tour on mainland Japan in April with dates in Tokyo (16th), Nagoya (17th) and Osaka (19th).