Kanako Horiuchi: Hana Umui

Kanako Horiuchi is a well-travelled woman. The singer and sanshin player is originally from Hakodate, Hokkaido but moved to Okinawa several years ago to become a student of Misako Oshiro. (The story of their meeting and the album they made together is on the Features page of the Power of Okinawa website). In 2007 Horiuchi herself received a Ryukyu Music Academy Teacher Licence. She has subsequently travelled the world with her sanshin to sing traditional Okinawan songs in South America, Africa and Europe.

Hana Umui is the result of her travels in Africa and specifically to Senegal where she first listened to the sounds of the harp-like traditional kora instrument in 2009. Eventually, in February this year, she decided to return to the West African country to make more music with Senegalese kora player Falaye Sakho. Their meeting was also recorded live and has now been released as an album by Horiuchi.


This album has the feel of an old-style field recording with all the accompanying background sounds and noises left in. We hear the sea, the birds chirping and local people talking as atmospheric accompaniment to the songs. It’s a long way from a sophisticated studio recording and at first listen it might sound a bit too rough but what it sacrifices in sound quality is made up for by the immediacy and feeling of being in the moment.

The selections are mainly Okinawan and they include familiar compositions such as ‘Tinsagu nu Hana’, ‘Umi nu Chinbora’ and ‘Kaisare’ but there are also songs from Senegal sung by Falaye Sakho. Horiuchi has noticed the similarity between some of the melodies produced by the two cultures and so her title track ‘Hana Umui’ is blended with the traditional Senegalese ‘Yaboyae’ and the two singers alternate vocals.

The track ‘Galgankilaki/Tanchame’ does a similar job of combining Senegal and Okinawa in song. And the recording simply entitled ‘Senegal (Live Mix)’ is a kind of jam in front of an enthusiastic audience who are eager to join in with the hayashi vocal taught to them by Horiuchi. Throughout the album her sanshin and sanba are joined by kora and also by balafon and djembe. It’s a fascinating journey of musical discovery for all involved and the album is a souvenir of that experience.

Hana Umui is released on 23rd July by Big Mouth Records.



Here is a link to the video for the track ‘Galgankilaki/Tanchame’:





Explore posts in the same categories: Okinawan Albums

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