Naomi Goeku: Ashita o Shinjite

Ashita o Shinjite is a new release by Chatan born singer and sanshin player Naomi Goeku who makes a long overdue album debut in her 70th year. Goeku has a teaching qualification from the Okinawa Minyo Kyokai and is a songwriter as well as an experienced performer who has been singing at various ‘live houses’ and izakaya on Okinawa.

The concept underpinning the album is an optimistic one to celebrate life on these islands and to offer some positive feelings in a time of pandemic. Goeku composed or co-wrote several of the songs while producer Yoshimi Arakaki also lends a hand with songwriting and joins Goeku on sanshin.

A small group of musicians accompany Goeku on some of the tracks with keyboards, sanshin, bass, and guitars. The arrangements of all the songs are by Tatsumi Chibana who is well-known for his promotion of other Okinawan artists as well as for his own hip-hop work with the Duty Free Shopp collective. He plays guitar here on one track.

What we have is a mixed bag of original shimauta starting with ‘Imi nu Hana’, a song composed by Goeku in a typical style found around the islands and ever-present wherever shimauta is played.

The tracks tend to be shared equally between faster and slower moods. ‘Churajima Uchina’ is another typical shimauta (even the title is generically Okinawan) but is none the worse for that and is one of the best tracks in a largely unexceptional but very likeable set. Later, there is ‘Ashibi Shinkanucha’ a bright and shiny piece reminiscent of something that might have been done by Ayame Band.

Two of the songs sung by Goeku were nominated for the Miuta Taisho, an annual awards contest sponsored by Radio Okinawa for more than three decades to find the best new shimauta compositions. Both songs are included in new recordings here. They are ‘Kui nu Umuibana’ (nominated in 2008), and ‘Hana nu Ashibina’ (2012).

The only mild disappointment is the inclusion of ‘Moichido’ midway through the album. It sounds more like a lame Japanese singer-songwriter offering and seems a bit out of place, and frankly unnecessary, among all the Okinawan melodies.   

The album ends on a high note with the song ‘Ashita e’. With its anthemic chorus it manages to leave us suitably uplifted and in a positive mindset.

Ashite o Shinjite will be released this week, on 21st July, by Office Arakachi.

longhai@akagawara.com

Explore posts in the same categories: Okinawan Albums

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