Mio Matsuda: Creole Japan
Japanese singer Mio Matsuda was interviewed on this blog recently about her new project Creole Japan which has now been released. Subtitled ‘A journey through the memories of songs’ it has been published as an attractive hardback book with a CD insert and is on sale throughout Japan at bookstores and CD shops.
To call it a ‘new’ project hardly does justice to the story as Matsuda has been travelling around Japan and overseas in search of the people’s songs and the stories behind them and she has been interviewing people, arranging and recording the songs and writing the book in a lengthy process which began when she first had the idea more than three years ago.
The quest has been well-rewarded with this final product which is a fascinating journey into the past. Most of the 14 songs included were collected around Japan and there is a song from Matsuda’s home prefecture of Akita, as well as songs from Tokushima, Nagasaki, Fukushima, Fukuoka and Kumamoto. There are also songs from Japanese immigrants in Brazil and from Hawaii as well as arguably the album’s outstanding track ‘Lemon Grass’ which has its origin in Micronesia and was then taken to Ogasawara.
For several years Matsuda has been outstanding as an unusual Japanese singer of songs in other traditions and languages and particularly from Portugal, Cape Verde and Brazil. This time she comes back to her roots in Japan and the results are so successful that it may well be her finest recording to date. In the book, which is written in Japanese, she traces the stories behind the songs and her journey to find them. Matsuda is also fluent in English and the book includes her own English translations of all the lyrics of the songs.
Her vocals are accompanied by Masaki Tsurugi’s piano and by percussion, contrabass, soprano and alto sax and the songs were all recorded earlier this year in Tokyo. This could so easily have become a dry academic exercise in collecting old songs for posterity but what is so refreshing is that the recording sounds very much like a Mio Matsuda album as she has put her own distinctive mark on everything. She has paid neither too much nor too little respect in singing these songs and has understood that only through this process can they come alive once more.
Creole Japan – A journey through the memories of songs is published by Artes Publishing Corporation. A short documentary film about its making can be seen here with English subtitles:
Mio Matsuda’s website has more details and a video of the song ‘Lemon Grass’.