Takashi Hirayasu: new collaboration

Okinawan singer and sanshin player Takashi Hirayasu releases a new album on May 12th on the Tokyo label Respect. This is his second joint effort with Japanese acoustic guitarist Chuei Yoshikawa. This one is entitled Utsukushiki Okinawa Ongaku, Kono Ichimai de.

Back in 1999 Hirayasu made the groundbreaking album of Okinawan children’s songs Warabi Uta with American guitarist Bob Brozman. The pair met and recorded together for the first time on Taketomi Island and the subsequent album became a landmark recording which led to its release worldwide as Jin Jin/Firefly. It also led to Hirayasu and Brozman touring together and then recording a second album, Nankuru Naisa,  in California. Hirayasu has since collaborated on recordings with Taiwanese Hakka singer-songwriter Sheng Xiang.

For those unfamiliar with Hirayasu’s music it would be far better to avoid the new release and seek out instead his earlier collaborations with Brozman. For if you are expecting another groundbreaking album you will be very disappointed. The get-together with Yoshikawa is really no more than a bland diversion which generates nothing in the way of excitement. All 12 tracks are instrumentals featuring Hirayasu’s sanshin and Yoshikawa’s acoustic guitar. The songs they have chosen are the most familiar ones, and so we get to listen to their versions of Okinawan favourites such as ‘Bashofu’, ‘Tinsagu nu Hana’ and ‘Asadoya Yunta’ as well as an ‘Eisa Medley’ and Shoukichi Kina’s ‘Haisai Ojisan’ and ‘Hana’. (Hirayasu also played electric guitar for several years with Kina’s band Champloose). As background music at Naha airport this album probably works fine but it’s hardly something you will want to rush out and buy from your local CD shop.

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