Basque Night in Ginoza

Posted May 21, 2018 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Basque Music, Live in Okinawa

Mikel Urdangarin’s visit to Okinawa as part of the Basque Ryukyu Project continued last Saturday evening with a Basque Night at Ginoza Farm Lab, a newly opened cafe and live music venue. The event was sold out and was a great success with Mikel giving a concert after a half hour talk session on culture and identity together with Daniel Lopez.

The evening also included much food and drink with Basque-style pintxos and wine available. In the concert that followed the talk Mikel performed solo at first and was then joined by Mutsumi Aragaki (sanshin, vocals) and Makoto Miyata (percussion). The trio concluded a very enjoyable and enlightening evening with a performance of the Yaeyama song ‘Tsuki nu kaisha’ with a newly written verse in the Basque language.

Yesterday Mikel gave another live show at Coconut Moon in Onna where he was joined by Mutsumi Aragaki. This Wednesday (23rd) is the final Basque Night concert at Sakurazaka Theatre where Mikel Urdangarin will play solo and again as a trio with Aragaki and Miyata.

These photos from Saturday at Ginoza Farm Lab were taken by Garaman Hall photographer Yuta Nakama.

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Basque Ryukyu Project in Okinawa (2)

Posted May 12, 2018 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Basque Music

There has been a change of venue for Mikel Urdangarin’s Basque Night in Ginoza on 19th May. It will now be held at the more spacious Ginoza Farm Lab which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and will start at the same time, 19:30. The concert is preceded by a Talk on culture and identity between Mikel Urdangarin and Okinawa-based filmmaker and photographer Daniel Lopez.

Film director Oier Aranzabal and his crew have returned to the Basque Country after spending a week shooting on the island. Oier has subsequently been interviewed on Basque television about the making of the film Margolaria (The Painter) which features Mikel Urdangarin and he talks about how the connection with Okinawa was made and about the history and culture of the Ryukyu Islands.

The interview is in the Basque language but includes footage from Okinawa in which Mikel rehearses with singer and sanshin player Mutsumi Aragaki. (See link below). Mutsumi will be Mikel’s guest at the Sakurazaka Theatre concert on the 23rd.

http://www.eitb.eus/eu/telebista/programak/ahoz-aho/bideoak/osoa/5581460/bideoa-oier-aranzabal-mikel-urdangarini-buruzko-margolaria-dokumentalaz/

Basque Ryukyu Project in Okinawa

Posted May 6, 2018 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Basque Music

Basque singer-songwriter Mikel Urdangarin has already been collaborating with musicians from Okinawa and immersing himself in the local culture since his arrival on the island at the end of April. He has also performed in public as a guest of Miyako Island singer Isamu Shimoji.

Mikel Urdangarin and Isamu Shimoji meet for the first time.

Mikel and Isamu playing together at Slow Jam, Naha.

After a week in Naha where he was followed by a film crew from the Basque Country who are making a documentary about him, he has joined us to stay at our home in the south where he has been rehearsing and collaborating with Mutsumi Aragaki and they will play together on the 23rd at Sakurazaka Theatre. From what I’ve already heard it will be a unique and very exciting meeting of Basque and Ryukyu musicians.

A rehearsal with Mutsumi Aragaki.

Mikel meets Lucy

He also met Lucy and will be a guest on her radio programme tomorrow at 11 a.m. on Ginowan City FM. In fact, it has become a very musical home over the past few days as we were also visited by Merry and David Ralston of Okinawa Americana who treated us to a house concert.

Hedy West: From Granmaw and Me

Posted April 16, 2018 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Roots Music from Out There

Hedy West was one of the greatest of all Appalachian singers and banjo players. She died in 2005 at the age of 67 after a lengthy career with much time spent away from her roots which were in the hill country of northern Georgia. After making two albums in America in the early 1960s and gaining a reputation as a leading light of the folk revival, she moved to England where she stayed for seven years performing regularly and releasing more albums before moving on to Germany in the 1970s and then a final return to America.

West was from a background of poor hill farmers and was about as authentic a traditional singer as could be imagined which set her apart from the more city based contemporaries of her generation such as Joan Baez and Judy Collins. Despite being ‘the real thing’ her albums gradually went out of print and by the time of her premature death she had become neglected and in danger of being forgotten.

This all began to change when three albums recorded in the UK for Topic Records were released again in 2011 as the double CD Ballads and Songs from the Appalachians.  The release (reviewed on this blog) won the fRoots award that year for best re-release/compilation and helped spark a renewed interest in her work which led to her two American albums being re-released on CD soon afterwards.

Now that her reputation is being rightly restored comes the release of this short album  From Granmaw and Me – a  collection of songs she learned from her grandmother Lillie Mulkey West (hence the title). The album is previously unreleased and contains some of her last recordings. Granmaw was a great influence on the young Hedy who was always learning songs from her family, and her grandmother not only chose the selections but also narrates as we hear her voice between some of the songs.

This could have been an unwanted intrusion but turns out to be quite the opposite. In fact the use of these spoken recordings only enhances the atmosphere rather than detracts from it and this strangely puts it much in line with work being done by contemporary revivalists such as Anna & Elizabeth with their sampling of voices from the past.

The song selection is diverse and although we’re treated to some of Hedy West’s gloriously rhythmic banjo playing – especially on ‘Sally Carter’ – there is also the addition of some guitar and fiddle by Tracy Schwarz (of New Lost City Ramblers fame) and harmony vocals from his wife Eloise. The opening track ‘Lil’ Old Mountain Shack’  is co-written by Hedy West and her father while all other songs are traditional. Outstanding among many are ‘Two Sisters’ (part of which evolved into Bob Dylan’s ‘Percy’s Song’) and the gospel song ‘The Uncloudy Day’

From Granmaw and Me is released by Fledg’ling Records.

www.fledglingrecords.co.uk

UK Night in Okinawa

Posted April 12, 2018 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Live in Okinawa

Ishigaki Island singer-songwriter Tidanomiyuki’s album Now and Then was reviewed here earlier this year. Now she is organising a UK Night in Naha later this month when as well as her own songs the live show will introduce  some of the indie bands from Okinawa who have been influenced by UK rock music.

Tidanomiyuki’s album focused on her voice and acoustic guitar but she also loves music from the UK and spent a year there studying in London and Norwich. She is planning to arrange her songs with a band sound for the UK Night event. The bands joining her on the evening will be The You, Viridian, and Mekarujin.

UK Night takes place at Live House Output in Naha on Saturday 28th April. It starts at 19:30 and advance tickets are 1,500 yen.

http://tidanomiyuki.wixsite.com/officialwebsite

Mikel Urdangarin in Okinawa

Posted April 6, 2018 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Basque Music, Live in Okinawa

The renowned Basque singer Mikel Urdangarin is coming to Okinawa at the end of April. He will perform solo concerts and spend over a month on the island immersing himself in the music and culture of Okinawa in the first meeting of its kind between musicians from Okinawa and the Spanish Basque Country.

Mikel Urdangarin has been an important singer and songwriter for more than 20 years and has released 14 albums. He sings in Euskara, the language of the Basques which is thought to be the oldest in Europe. His many projects have included collaborations with the musician Rafa Rueda and the novelist and poet Kirmen Uribe. His latest album Margolaria (The Painter) is also the title of a feature documentary film about his career that is currently in production.

In Okinawa, solo concerts have been announced at Garaman Hall Lobby, Ginoza on 19th May and at Sakurazaka Theatre Hall B, Naha on 23rd May and tickets are already on sale. He will also appear at Coconut Moon, Onna on 20th May and at the Ajiru Music Festival at Futenma Shrine on 26th May. Before these concerts he will be a guest on the Ginowan City FM radio show ‘Lucy のイチャリバAmigos!’ at 11 a.m. on 7th May.

Last September I met Mikel for the first time near his home in the Basque Country and the idea for this Basque-Ryukyu project began. Now that it’s becoming a reality I hope friends, musicians and anyone in Okinawa with an interest in music and different cultures will take the opportunity to attend one or more of his shows.

www.mikelurdangarin.eus

http://garaman.jp/sf/

http://sakura-zaka.com/event-info/12893

Anna & Elizabeth: The Invisible Comes to Us

Posted March 29, 2018 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Roots Music from Out There

The Invisible Comes to Us is the third album by Anna & Elizabeth who have been championed by this blog for a long time. The two have a special love for Appalachian mountain music and Elizabeth LaPrelle is the finest living traditional ballad singer bar none. It has been three years since their last album and this new release takes their exploration of old songs into groundbreaking new territory.

With their feet still firmly in this world the partnership moves forward to embrace some pioneering experimental arrangements. Multi-instrumentalist Anna Roberts-Gevalt recently immersed herself in the Brooklyn avant-garde community and this is co-produced by her and Benjamin Lazar Davis. As a result many of the songs are presented with hints of woodwind, brass, synths and new technologies that subtly complement but never overwhelm the stories being told.

In the sleeve notes the duo writes: “These are songs we first heard in small archives in our home states, Vermont and Virginia. Recordings made in living rooms and kitchens, of songs learned in childhood. The characters, and the landscapes they occupied, grew rich in our minds. This record grew out of the desire to show you the world we saw in these songs.”

Among many standout tracks are ‘Black Eyed Susan’ and the old Vermont hymn ‘Mother in the Graveyard’ which find the pair on relatively familiar ground. The superb ‘By the Shore’ with its jazzy opening backdrop and Anna’s overlapping vocals even has echoes of Brecht and Weil not to mention Laurie Anderson. It was experimental enough to disturb my cat who normally takes no notice of the many sounds that waft around our home.

Anna & Elizabeth have done a wonderful job of reimagining these songs for a modern audience and most of all they have made a sublimely enjoyable album. Folk song contains universal truths and though the times may change the same concerns continually engage us. This is strikingly brought home in the words of the song ‘Jeano and Jeanette’ that opens the album and also closes it with a crackly fragment of a recording from Margaret Shipman whose voice speaks to us from the past:

“If I were Queen of France or still better Pope of Rome / I’d have no fighting men abroad nor weeping maids at home / All the world should be at peace and the right should be the might / I’d have all that made the quarrelling the only ones to fight.”

Anna & Elizabeth are currently touring the East Coast of the USA and their final date is in New York City on 23rd April with guests Jim White, Susan Alcorn and Benjamin Lazar Davis. Then in May they tour the UK and Ireland ending with dates in Sheffield (15th) and London (16th).

The Invisible Comes to Us is released on 30th March by Smithsonian Folkways.

www.annaandelizabeth.com