Chihiro Kamiya: Utaui
Utaui is the latest album from Chihiro Kamiya who is originally from the tiny Okinawa island of Tsuken. She comes from a musical family and her uncle Koichi has been a well-known traditional singer and sanshin player for many years. Up to now Kamiya has preferred to go her own way and has made albums with a strong pop and rock agenda. This time it’s a very different matter and she has made an album almost equally balanced between the traditional and the modern.
The album begins with the Yaeyama song ‘Tsuki nu Kaisha’, played here in a jazzy arrangement which introduces piano and drums to Kamiya’s vocal and sanshin. This good start continues with the Scottish folk song ‘The Water is Wide’ which is given new words by Kamiya and is called here ‘Michi Shirube~Water is Wide’. There is also a version of the popular shimauta ‘Hiyamikachi Bushi’ and there are four traditional songs from Okinawa – ‘Kehitori Bushi’, ‘Achamegwa’, ‘Monashiri Bushi’ and, best of all, a lovely version of ‘Hamachidori’.
As well as the older songs there are five new compositions either written or co-written by Kamiya. The best of these is ‘Coral Song’ which begins quietly as a waltz and then builds towards an anthemic chorus. The two musicians who co-produced the album with Kamiya and also accompanied her on the studio recordings are Tetsuya Kanegawa (guitar, banjo) and Don Kubota (bass, guitar, percussion, drums, keyboards, mandolin). Kamiya herself sings and plays sanshin throughout.
Utaui isn’t perfect but it’s definitely the best album that Kamiya has made so far. Now 30, she continues to challenge herself and has come up with a solid piece of work which finally shows off her best qualities. She seems comfortable with these songs and her singing is never less than superb.
Utaui is released on Sinpil Records.