….With songs encouraging dancing and drinking, the Crusaders are on a mission to bring “highbrow” min’yō back to it’s “lowlife” roots -whilst also bringing traditional Japanese music onto the global music stage…
Comprising of ten multi-instrumentalists (of which three are percussionists!) Tokyo-based Minyo Crusaders have been mixing up something of a musical storm with their recent debut album Echos of Japan which was released last month on UK’s Mais Um.
Reworking historic Japanese folk songs (min’yō) and fusing them together with Latin, African, Caribbean and Asian rhythms, this enchanting collective are a big band like no other!! With such a completely absorbing sound its hard not to enticed into its magic as distinctive min’yō vocals glide over striking grooves, joining the dots between Cumbia, Ethiopian jazz, Thai pop, Afro funk and reggae.
Speaking of the album band-leader Katsumi Tanaka has explained that, “For Japanese people min’yō is both the closest and most distant folk music. 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.” This sound reaches, stretching far beyond language barriers and cultural differences, welcoming all whom listen into a world of mixed rhythms and traditional folk song. It’s fantastic to witness such a diverse amalgamation of sound and to bask in the glow of this fascinating fusion, for it works fantastically and it’s uniqueness is impressive. Katsumi Tanaka’s desire for his music was to “avoid making it too complicated,” simply adding that “min’yō is for everyday people.”
Featured track Akita Nikata Bushi (Ethiopian Groove) stretches out over a spellbinding five and half blissful minutes and is as invigorating as it is captivating. Soaring vocals consume the senses, deep lingering bass-lines warm the skin, cutting brass/horn sections sharpens the touch, whilst an array of dynamic rhythms gets the blood rushing. This sound is mighty fine! Check it out above and listen/purchase the whole album here.
Minyo Crusaders are (descriptions by Katsumi Tanaka)
Freddie Tsukamoto (vocals): “Stubborn, like an old Japanese man”
Meg (vocals, melodica): “Spiritual jazz lover. Never talks on stage”
Katsumi Tanaka (guitar): “Collector of bizarre Japanese guitars”
DADDY U (bass): “Caribbean music freak”
Moe (keyboards): “Comic collector, synth-head, easy-going”
Sono (timbales): “Dog lover”
Mutsumi Kobayashi (bongos): “Beat master & happy mood maker”
Yamauchi Stephan (trumpet): “Most organised and reliable”
Koichiro Osawa (sax) “The party man and our craziest performer”
Irochi (congas): “Our mascot. Something always happens on tour”