Yukito Ara & Yuko Sato: Joya
Parsha Club vocalist and sanshin player Yukito Ara has released a new album on the Teichiku label. The album Joya (Verklarte Nacht) is a joint project featuring Ara and Japanese pianist Yuko Sato.
Yukito Ara is from the Yaeyama Islands and is already well-known as a flamboyant character and as one of the most accomplished sanshin players in Okinawan music. On this album he is in a much more subdued mood as he plays with Sato who is a classically trained musician originally from Fukuoka but now resident in Okinawa. Sato is particularly interested in jazz but has wide musical tastes and has already collaborated with blues musician Kantaro Uchida and with Miyako Island singer Isamu Shimoji.
The album contains a number of traditional island songs including ‘Agaroza’, ‘Tsuki Nu Kaisha’, ‘Hamachidori’ and ‘Asadoya Bushi’ as well as some original songs by Ara and Isamu Shimoji. The title track was written jointly by Ara and Sato.
Of course, this is not the first time that sanshin and piano have got together to play Okinawan music, the most celebrated occasion being the Yasukatsu Oshima with Geoffrey Keezer album made in New York, while Suguru Ikeda – another Yaeyama singer – made the album Yaima-uta with pianist Chigusa Ishikawa. Joya is not as experimental or ambitious as the Oshima/Keezer album and is more along the lines of Ikeda’s outing with just the simple use of sanshin and piano and no other musicians. In fact, on some tracks the piano is the only accompaniment and it would perhaps have been more satisfying if the sanshin had been more prominent. Nevertheless it’s an interesting diversion for Ara and his singing is as usual very confident and distinctive.