Shuken Maekawa: new album

The popular Okinawan singer and sanshin player Shuken Maekawa has a new album entitled Korekaramo Kanasando which has just been released on the Campus Records label. Known by his nickname Gen-chan, Maekawa is a purveyor of shimauta, writing several of his own songs but he is also capable of performing minyo alongside the best. He is well-known for two songs which are strongly associated with him – ‘Ashibina’ and ‘Kanasando’. In fact, these two songs have already been recorded by him on a number of occasions and they appear again on the new album as tracks 1 and 2 – he unashamedly advertises the fact with the album’s title. The new album contains 18 tracks in all so there is plenty more to enjoy apart from his trademark pair of songs.

Gen-chan's new album

Gen-chan was born in Okinawa in 1960, and like so many Okinawan musicians he is from a musical family. He frequently appears nowadays on local television and in commercials and is a great showman and entertainer with a cheerful, upbeat approach. At the ‘Sanshin no hi’ event in Yomitan earlier this year he opened the day’s proceedings, inevitably, by singing his two hit songs. 

On Korekaramo Kanasando he is joined by the Gen-chan Band comprising keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, and also by singers Yukie Maekawa and Aiko Yohen. The album breaks no new ground and would probably be easy to dismiss as just more tacky shimauta from a local label, many of the songs following the same musical formula. Then again, this is what many Okinawans enjoy best and there is definitely a charm about Gen-chan’s songs that lifts the spirits. There are times when the familiar is just what we need. So although Gen-chan does not surprise us with anything new (we can hardly imagine him experimenting with hip-hop or global beats) this is a likeable release that will satisfy his many fans.

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