Echoes Of Japan

12/05/19The Minyo Crusaders Combine Traditional Japanese Folk Songs With A Plethora Of Global Styles

Well here's for a little something off the beaten path. All the way from Japan comes this big band that is quite unlike anything we've ever heard. The Minyo Crusaders just recently released their debut album on UK imprint Mais Um and we highly recommend you give it a listen. Led by guitarist Katsumi Tanaka, the 10-piece successfully reworks Japanese folk songs, also known as min'yō, with Latin, African, Caribbean and Asian rhythms, from cumbia, to Ethiopian jazz, Thai pop, Afro funk and reggae.

As Tanaka puts it, "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.” In the wake of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, he began researching Japanese roots music and was drawn to mid-late 20th century acts the likes of 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,” he recounts. Min'yō was originally sung by fishermen (Kushimoto Bushi; Mamurogawa Ondo), coal miners (Tanko Bushi) and sumo wrestlers (Sumo Jinku), dealing with topics of a now forgotten Japan.“As a traditional performing art, min'yō is considered highbrow, yet these are mainly songs for working, dancing or drinking - we want to return them to their literal meaning as ‘songs of the people’,” he adds.

Intending to revive this style and combine it with world music, Tanaka decided to form a band and slowly but surely the Minyo Crusaders came into being. Their debut effort "Echoes of Japan" is out now. It is about "bringing 'highbrow' min'yō back to it's 'lowlife' roots" as well as to the global stage for it to be heard by a wider public and most importantly "everyday people". And one thing is for sure: You've got to hear this! 

Minyo Crusaders are:
Freddie Tsukamoto (vocals) 
Meg (vocals, melodica)
Katsumi Tanaka (guitar)
DADDY U (bass)
Moe (keyboards)
Sono (timbales)
Mutsumi Kobayashi (bongos)
Yamauchi Stephan (trumpet)
Koichiro Osawa (sax)
Irochi (congas)

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom