Misako Oshiro & Kanako Horiuchi: Uta Nu In

Misako Oshiro is one of the great names of Okinawan traditional song and is still active at the age of 75. Her work with the late Rinsho Kadekaru is almost legendary but she has also recorded duet albums with other singers. The first of these was with Naeko Seragaki and then two years ago she made a joint album with Toru Yonaha. On her new release Uta Nu In she gets together with Hokkaido-born singer Kanako Horiuchi. The two women have a close musical relationship as Horiuchi studied sanshin and learned minyo from Misako Oshiro and has for the past ten years been a regular performer at Oshiro’s Naha club ‘Shima Umui’. The idea to make an album together came from Horiuchi.

Of the album’s 13 tracks, eight are traditional songs from Okinawa. There are also two songs written by Teihan China. The first of these is ‘Kataumui’ which is one of the most famous songs associated with Misako Oshiro, but here the vocal is entrusted to the much younger Horiuchi. Some of the songs on the album feature alternate verses sung separately by the two women with the pair singing together on the final verse. Horiuchi’s valuable contribution adds a lot to the success of these recordings.

The accompaniment on the album is very sparse and this was Oshiro’s idea. The main focus is on the vocals with often just a sanshin providing the backdrop. Toru Yonaha joins on four tracks but his presence is so unobtrusive that you hardly notice it. Needless to say, it’s a world away from Kanako Horiuchi’s other current project Ska Lovers – reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Here lies the only slight criticism that could possibly be made about the album – everything is performed in such a plain and unadorned way that at times it’s almost like a teaching project. The beautiful ‘Sah Sah Bushi’, for example, is stripped to its bare essentials rather than given an arrangement in the way that both Shoukichi Kina and Misako Koja have done so successfully in the past. But then it would have been a different album. As it stands, Uta Nu In is a very satisfying CD which shows off the talents of both women and its simplicity takes us straight to the core of the songs. The album will be released by Respect Records on the 21st September.

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