Mika Sunakawa: Koi-uta

Mika Sunakawa is a Naha-based singer and sanshin player from Miyako Island. She made her debut album in 2006 when she was 22 and has since been involved in a number of different musical projects and collaborations. The newly released Koi-uta is her second solo album.

The album is almost equally balanced between traditional songs from Miyako and originals with two of them co-written by Sunakawa. Production is by Kaworu Miyagi who also helped out with some of the songwriting. The overall sound on most of the tracks is that of shimauta with sanshin backed by the standard guitar, keyboards, bass and drums line-up. On a few songs it comes close to the sort of thing Champloose, Ayame Band and others were so good at in the 1990s.

sunakawa mika

Maybe here lies the problem, because it quickly begins to sound just a bit too familiar and very much like the sort of thing heard whenever Okinawan musicians try to please Japanese tourists. Nothing wrong with that if you happen to like that kind of thing and it’s all sung and played perfectly well. But it’s only when Sunakawa tackles the old Miyako songs that the album finally lifts itself a little away from the run of the mill.

Two songs ‘Bangamuri’ and ‘Nariyama Ayagu’ (both traditional and from Miyako) are superior to anything else with arrangements that are sufficiently different while remaining simple and uncluttered. It’s a pity there aren’t more like this as both are very good. Instead, the mix of traditional and modern is a difficult balancing act and one that only a few such as Chihiro Kamiya have really managed to pull off successfully. Nevertheless, this is a decent album with a firm grounding in the islands of Miyako.

Koi-uta is released by Miikaji Music.

http://www.miikaji.com

 

 

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