Mutsumi Aragaki – Live in Naha

On Monday evening I was invited to the first solo concert by Okinawan singer and sanshin player Mutsumi Aragaki who was recently featured in the UK magazine Songlines. Her performance was at ‘tomari’, an art space close to Naha port. The tomari venue is small, friendly and flexible and is used for exhibitions and ‘all kinds of creativity’.

Aragaki invited her audience to enjoy ‘another world of Okinawan music’ and performed original compositions and her own take on old favourites such as ‘Asadoya Yunta’ and ‘Tinsagu nu Hana’ as well as a video collaboration. Many of the songs were given unusual treatments with the use of loops, drones and sound effects added to voice and sanshin and it reminded me in some ways of Anna & Elizabeth’s latest experiments in Appalachian music.

There is always the fear that such things can end up in directionless noodling but Aragaki kept it interesting and relevant throughout. Her singing is already becoming well-known but even more rewarding was the adventurous use of sanshin as an instrument in its own right as well as just an accompaniment to vocals. The audience were understandably impressed.

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