Mongol 800: Good Morning Okinawa
Okinawan trio Mongol 800 have been celebrating their 15th anniversary this year. The guitar, bass and drums indie band released a Best compilation in January and have since made a new CD Good Morning Okinawa which is their sixth full length album. Mongol 800 began as high school students in Okinawa and went on to have big commercial success with their second album Message which has sold 3 million copies. While their music is a lot more rock than roots there are always strong indications of their island background in their lyrics, and concerns about Okinawan issues run throughout the new album.
Good Morning Okinawa begins with that most traditional of Okinawan openers ‘Kagiyade-Fuu’ which starts sedately and then dissolves into a very different rock arrangement. The title track then urges Okinawans to take action to realize their island dreams and change the world. ‘Rise and Shine’ is another good song which shows off their typically bright, powerful and upbeat melodies. But the outstanding song is ‘Bougainbilly’ which outlines the plight of Okinawa’s beautiful nature constantly under threat from occupation by American military bases and notes with irony the contradiction of trying to make peace with helicopters and weapons.
The exotic tropical island scene on the front cover contrasts with a similar picture on the back, but this time the view is obscured by the barbed wire and fence of a military base. Several songs are sung in a mixture of Japanese and English and two tracks – the love songs ‘Forget Me Not’ and ‘Tomorrow’ – are entirely in English. With the exception of the opening melody, all songs are written by members of the band who arranged and produced the album. The bulk of the songwriting is by main vocalist and bass player Kiyosaku Uezu. Toru Yonaha joins them on some tracks and plays sanshin, fue and sanba.
Good Morning Okinawa is another fine example of the kind of guitar based rock for which Mongol 800 are well-known. Not everything works equally well but the best songs sound fresh and strong. They are currently touring Japan in support of the album. Further details, including a biography and discography with English translations, are available at their website:
Good Morning Okinawa is released by Highwave.