Minyo Crusaders rework historic Japanese folk songs (min'yō) with Latin, African, Caribbean, and Asian rhythms for their debut album Echoes of Japan. Releases from Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono, and Midori Takada have re-ignited global interest in Japanese music and Echoes of Japan marks the arrival of a big band like no other.
"For Japanese people, min'yō is both the closest, and most distant, folk music," explains band-leader Katsumi Tanaka: "We may not feel it in our daily, urban lives, yet the melodies, the style of singing and the rhythm of the taiko drums are engrained in our DNA." Initially indifferent to min'yō, a tragic event in recent Japanese history set Tanaka on his current path: "Following the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, I reflected on my life, work and identity. A fan of world music, I began searching for Japanese roots music I could identify with. Discovering mid-late 20th century acts Hibari Misora, Chiemi Eri and the Tokyo Cuban Boys, I was captivated by their eccentric arrangements and how they mixed min'yō with Latin and jazz." Originally sung by fishermen ("Kushimoto Bushi"; "Mamurogawa Ondo"), coal miners ("Tanko Bushi") and sumo wrestlers ("Sumo Jinku"), these songs deal with topics such as the returning spirits of ancestors ("Hohai Bushi"), Japan's smallest bird ("Toichin Bushi"), and a bride's love for her husband's pockmarked face ("Otemoyan"). Minyo Crusaders are one of the most hyped acts on the Tokyo music scene that went national in 2018 through festivals such as Fuji Rock.
The band features veterans of the Tokyo roots music scene such as bassist DADDY U (Ska Flames), keyboardist Moe (Kidlat), sax player Koichiro Osawa (Matt Sounds, J.J. Session), Yamauchi Stephan (J.J. Session), percussionist Mutsumi Kobayashi (Banda de la Mumbia), conga player Irochi (Cubatumb), and vocalist Meg (DJ collective Tokyo Sabroso). For fans of: Haruomi Hosono, Soundway Records, Analog Africa, Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band. CD version comes in gatefold digipack; includes poster with Japanese lyrics and English translations.
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