Satoru Shimoji: Myahk-U

The new album from Miyako singer Satoru Shimoji is his first since Myahk almost three years ago. It’s well-known that Shimoji spent 15 years in Tokyo as a rock musician before returning to Miyako where he rediscovered his roots and opened the first recording studio on the island. As well as promoting island music through his own recordings he has supported and recorded a large number of singers and musicians from his islands.

Shimoji’s previous album was a huge success artistically as it managed to blend his taste for sweeping piano and string arrangements with a very traditional atmosphere which remains intimately connected with the islands of Miyako. It was his most adventurous and satisfying release. Now we have Myahk-U (subtitled ~Utadama~) which follows a very similar path with its mix of old and new and with help enlisted from many of the same musicians.

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The album’s twelve tracks are divided equally between original songs by Shimoji and traditional songs from Miyako. Two songs appear twice in different versions. Once again there are some big arrangements with guitars, bass, keyboards, synthesizer, piano, violin and trumpet all aboard, but there are also moments with just Shimoji’s voice and sanshin, and just unaccompanied voices too as on the opening ‘Uyaki-agu’. Throughout there’s an effective use of light and shade which never allows the sound to become too busy or overbearing.

While none of the originals are as immediately affecting as one or two on the previous album, new songs ‘Basukinayo’ and ‘Inochi no Hana’ are fine examples of Shimoji’s songwriting (the latter with hints of Kazufumi Miyazawa’s ‘Shimauta’). The best is reserved for two traditional songs ‘Sakida-gah’ and ‘Irabu Togani’ which are superbly arranged and sung. The album was recorded at Shimoji’s Lagoon studio in Miyako and also in Shizuoka, Tokyo, Osaka, and California. As before, the production, mixing and mastering is by Goh Hotoda.

While the Ryukyu Islands regularly produce fine young singers and musicians it’s the comparatively veteran Satoru Shimoji who has again come up with a really good set of recordings. The songs on Myahk-U are not played in such an experimental way as, for example, Makoto Kubota’s Blue Asia project (on which Shimoji also took part) but there is something here which is much more substantial. We’ve had a bewildering array of Okinawan hip-hop, jazz, reggae, salsa and more in recent times but what Shimoji is doing now is pushing the boundaries just enough, rather in the way that Shoukichi Kina did in the 1990s, to create exciting new music full of the heart of his islands.

Myahk-U ~Utadama~ is released by Lagoon Music Entertainment.

www.shimojisatoru.jp

 

 

 

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