Kanako Horiuchi: Chimu Churasa ~Connect with People~

Hokkaido-born Kanako Horiuchi has been resident in Okinawa for seventeen years and in that time has become a regular live wire on the music scene. She became a pupil of the highly-regarded veteran singer Misako Oshiro and learned traditional singing and sanshin but her openness to all kinds of musical styles and genres has also led her to travel widely overseas and she has performed and recorded in many different ways.

There have been excursions into Jamaican ska, Senegalese music, a duet album with mentor Misako Oshiro, and late last year an album of electronica with Churashima Navigator. She seems to have a finger on the pulse of everything in Okinawa – it’s remarkable in some ways that she also found time to get married last year and has recently given birth to a child.

Now there’s another release and this time it’s a 2 CD set. The album Chimu Churasa ~Connect with People~ might seem a bit haphazard at first glance, though it won’t surprise anyone familiar with Horiuchi’s work. It’s a sprawling collection of nineteen tracks over two discs and it shows off many of Horiuchi’s duets and collaborations, mainly in studio recordings but also with some live tracks. Most but not all of this is new and there are examples of many different styles. The main focus however is on the roots music of Okinawa.

The first disc starts with a seven minute original instrumental ‘To Be Born’ before we get another version of ‘Amazing Grace’ a song somehow much beloved of Okinawan and Japanese singers but which perhaps is overdue for retirement – though this one contains the unusual addition of Akira Sakata on saxophone. The traditional ‘Kunjan Sabakui’ begins with backing vocals that sound vaguely South African but in fact her collaborators here are Okinawan salsa band Kachimba4.

The second disc begins with one of the very best tracks, a duet with Kume Island singer and sanshin player Junji Toubaru on ‘Kuinu Hana’. Elsewhere ‘Yaka Bushi’ is another fine duet with piano and sanshin while the familiar ‘Hiyamikachi Bushi’ is experimental and unusual. ‘Hanaumui’ is another electronic adventure with Churashima Navigator, and ‘Danju Kariyushi’ finds Horiuchi joining forces with Malian kora player Mamadou Doumbia. Singer and guitarist Morito Itoman from Maltese Rock appears on ‘Futami Jowa’, and there is another collaboration with Misako Oshiro.

It may be a mixed bag and not everything will please equally but this is how Horiuchi operates and this generous collection of songs and music shows just how impressive she is as an open-minded singer and musician. If there is any surprise it’s that her four original contributions are so good and they stand up very well alongside many classic Okinawan songs. In fact ‘Memories Melodies’, with its blend of sanshin and guitar, is a warm melodic composition that wouldn’t be out of place as a hit song.

Chimu Churasa ~Connect with People~ is released on 3rd March by Big Mouth Records.

http://aikanaumui.ti-da.net/

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