Takashi Hirayasu & Bob Brozman: Mo Ashibi Magic

It’s been a long time coming but Mo Ashibi Magic – subtitled Live in Tokyo 1999 – is the first live release by Okinawan singer Takashi Hirayasu and virtuoso American guitarist Bob Brozman. The recording was made on 15th September 1999 at Tokyo Aoyama Restaurant Bar CAY, just a couple of months after the pair’s Warabi Uta album came out to worldwide acclaim.

In fact, Warabi Uta (retitled Jin Jin/Firefly overseas) became a roots best seller and introduced many new listeners to Okinawan music. It was made on tiny Taketomi Island and was a project of startling simplicity and originality on which Hirayasu’s vocals and sanshin collided gloriously with Brozman’s guitar on a set of Okinawan children’s songs.

A second album recorded in California was released the following year. I also managed to sit down with Bob Brozman in Osaka during that year and recorded a lengthy interview with him for The Power of Okinawa book. My last contact with him was almost a decade later and then came the shocking news of his suicide in 2013 at the age of 59.

The person responsible for all those early recordings was producer Kenichi Takahashi of Tokyo’s Respect Records. Many years later, and with the world in turmoil through the pandemic, Takahashi began to reflect on the past and think about the live show recorded in Tokyo but left in the vaults. After obtaining permission from all those involved, he decided to finally release the live show as a double album.

And what a joy it is to listen to the pair again after all this time. The recordings have been mixed and mastered to a high standard and the sound captures all the immediacy of the occasion. They are joined by Yuki Yamauchi (guitar and ukulele) for many of the songs. These include superb performances of ‘Chon Chon Kijimuna’ (see video below), ‘Tinsagu nu Hana’, ‘Akatasundunchi’, ‘Jin Jin’ and others from that original groundbreaking album.   

Alongside all the Okinawan songs is their take on Soul Flower Union’s moving ‘Mangetsu no Yube’ written for survivors of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe. Hirayasu sings it here in an Uchinaguchi version with the great Okinawan singer Misako Koja joining for hayashi. The concert ends fittingly with the evocative instrumental ‘Taketomi Sunset’.

Takashi Hirayasu has been around a long time and continues to make interesting music that always pushes the boundaries, but the collaboration with Brozman is surely his finest work. For anyone familiar with their original albums this will be an unexpected and essential bonus. It also serves as a wonderful reminder of one of the most successful collaborations in any musical genre.

The total running time for the 2 CDs is around 87 minutes. The booklet will include extensive notes and photos.

Mo Ashibi Magic ~ Live in Tokyo 1999 ~ will be released by Respect on 21st April.


Explore posts in the same categories: Okinawan Albums

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