Kazutoshi Matsuda – Live in Chatan

Okinawan singer and sanshin player Kazutoshi Matsuda performed last night at Live House Mod’s in his hometown of Chatan, Okinawa. This return home was the last date of a tour to promote the release of his third album Nuchi Nu Hana which was reviewed on the Power of Okinawa blog in August. The tour included a number of cities throughout mainland Japan.

Those such as myself who were lucky enough to be in the audience in Chatan were rewarded with a fine show from Matsuda who has gradually established himself as one of the very best Okinawan singers. He is blessed with a pure, clear voice and an excellent sanshin technique but best of all is his obvious feeling and sensitivity for the songs.

The first half of the show comprised mainly traditional island songs and included songs from Ie-jima, Kume-jima, and Okinawa. At times Matsuda was joined by taiko but for the most part was alone with his sanshin. It was a masterclass and his version of ‘Sagichidyuya’ which closed the first set was outstanding.

Kazutoshi Matsuda after last night's show in Chatan.

Kazutoshi Matsuda after last night’s show in Chatan.

For the second half Matsuda was joined by a band with Hideki Tanaka on acoustic guitar plus a keyboard player and percussionist. The musicians blended perfectly with Matsuda as he sang several songs from the new album including the original title track and covers of Yasukatsu Oshima’s ‘Agarikata Bushi’ and the Sadao China co-written ‘Katadayui’.

There was also an imaginative version of the evergreen ‘Asadoya Yunta’ which made an old song fresh again with an unusual arrangement. Much the same could be said about his superb arrangement of ‘Ayagu’ which closed the set. Matsuda finally returned to accompany himself on piano for the first of two encores which ended with the inevitable katcharsee dance song.

Okinawan (and Japanese) audiences like to listen to the bits of chat in between the songs almost as much as to the songs themselves and Matsuda indulged them with a good deal of talking last night. Too many anecdotes can be frustrating for those who just want to listen to the songs. However, Matsuda is such an unassuming and engaging presence that almost anything could be forgiven and his story of his tough upbringing and tragic family history gave everyone pause for thought. He is now enjoying a rich creative period and is worthy of all the praise that comes his way.

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