Isamu Shimoji Best

Miyako Island singer Isamu Shimoji has released a new major compilation to celebrate his ten years as a recording artist. The double album Isamu Shimoji Best: 10th Anniversary contains 29 tracks as well as a 37 minute bonus DVD with promotional and live videos.

Shimoji first came to the attention of Okinawan music fans in 2002 with his debut single ‘Banta ga Nmari Zuma’. The song was sung in the Miyakufutsu dialect of his native island, which sounds completely different from other Okinawan languages, and it was the first time that most people – even in the Ryukyu Islands – had heard songs sung in this way. The new album is presented as “a decade of songs sung in Miyako dialect”. But Shimoji isn’t just a curiosity – he has also developed into a very good singer and songwriter and is still improving.

The two CDs are divided into a quieter one (‘Sei’) and a more lively one (‘Dou’). Shimoji has been a prolific recording artist with eight albums, several singles, two DVDs, and some joint recordings with fellow Miyako islander Satoru Shimoji and with Yaeyama singer Yukito Ara so there is plenty to choose from. Despite the care which has gone into the packaging of this album and the inclusion of Shimoji’s own notes on each song, there are no details of the musicians on individual songs nor information on the albums they were taken from which would have been helpful.

Shimoji plays acoustic guitar on nearly all of his songs with a complete absence of sanshin except for the one track where Yukito Ara appears. Nevertheless, he seems to capture the island spirit in ways which go beyond the playing of traditional instruments. (And the video for his song ‘Minshu no Yakudo’ has some fascinatingly brief glimpses of Miyako’s unique Pantu festival). Not all of his songs are equally successful and there are one or two that might have been better left out but the good thing is that his recent work, such as the superb ‘Reset’ from last year’s No Refuge, is his best yet. Two new recordings are also included while the whole project begins with that first single ‘Banta ga Nmari Zuma’.

Isamu Shimoji Best: 10th Anniversary is released on Teichiku.

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