Yasuko Yoshida: Furusato No Kaze

Furusato No Kaze (Hometown’s Wind) is the third album by Okinawan singer Yasuko Yoshida and her first in almost 14 years. Since making that last album the former Nenes member has appeared regularly at Sadao China’s Shimauta live house in Naha’s Kokusai-dori and also at the minyo club which she used to run with her husband in her hometown Nago.

Despite the support and involvement of ten musicians the new album is not cluttered at all and it’s Yoshida’s own voice which shines brightly and clearly alongside generally simple arrangements of the eleven tracks. There are four songs composed by Sadao China (who also produced the album) another is by Naohiko Uehara and Seibun Tokuhara, and there’s a lovely version of Yasukatsu Oshima and Eisho Higa’s well-known ‘Irayoi Tsukiyahama’.

Yoshida Yasuko

The rest of the tracks are traditional Okinawan songs but there is also ‘Nakanaori Sanraguwa’ an ambitious nine and a half minute track which is a version of a Ryukyu kageki (opera) first performed in 1906, in which the three different parts are sung by YasukoYoshida, husband Yasuo Yoshida, and niece Nagisa Uehara (who is also a member of the new Nenes line-up). Like most of the other songs on the album this is sung in Uchinaguchi but even without fully understanding the words the performance itself is always strong enough to hold the interest.

Yoshida’s association with the original Nenes isn’t entirely overlooked as there is a revisit to one of their old favourites ‘Ashibi’, written by China and recorded here without all its usual musical trimmings, and this segues into the traditional song ‘Yanbaru Timatu’. The sanshin is the dominant instrument throughout with acoustic guitar, keyboards, bass and percussion used very sparingly to add some colour here and there. All four members of the ‘new’ Nenes provide backing vocals on ‘Irayoi Tsukiyahama’.

Yasuko Yoshida with Sadao China at Shimauta last Sunday to promote the new album

Yasuko Yoshida promotes her new album with Sadao China at Shimauta last Sunday

Yasuko Yoshida has a great voice and has made an exemplary album of Okinawan songs which surpasses her previous solo work. It might have been nice to have had another song arranged and played in a similar way to the title track and ‘Irayoi Tsukiyahama’ – both beautifully done – rather than one of the two taiko driven songs in the middle of the album. Then again this might be nitpicking. Yoshida sings superbly and has made an album which already sets the standard very high for 2015.

Furusato No Kaze is released by Marufuku Records.

 

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