Kazuhira Takeshita and his songs from Amami
October 29, 2008 6:23 AM   Subscribe

In case you've never heard him, I'd like to introduce you to the sublimely soulful music of Kazuhira Takeshita, from Amami.

I discovered Kazuhira Takeshita about 10 years ago via this release, and I can't recommend it highly enough. The record reviewer on this page, however, incorrectly indicates that Takeshita plays the shamisen. Wrong. Takeshita's instrument is is the sanshin, the same as that used throughout the Okinawan archipelago. It is the predecessor of the Japanese shamisen.

There's something rather unique about the folk music (called "shimauta") of Amami: unlike virtually all other Okinawan and Japanese folk music, Amami singing involves the use of falsetto voice.

Wikipedia page on the Amami Islands.
posted by flapjax at midnite (10 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
nice...this post is a really helpful piece of advice for someone who doesn't know anything to japanese traditional music. It provides a fine starting point. Thanks !
posted by nicolin at 6:39 AM on October 29, 2008

As soon as I heard that falsetto, I knew this was something different and special. The singing style really increases the shared musical vocabulary between eastern performer and western listener. I love it!

The woman sitting next to him has a beautiful voice as well...
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 7:34 AM on October 29, 2008

Is this the sanshin heros thread? This is probably a good enough place as any to mention the Okinawan Jimi Hendrix, Seijin Noborikawa, who I know mostly from this release where he performs and talks about his songs in the generally unintelligible Okinawan dialect. He's usually seen playing the 6 string version of the sanshin, the rokushin, different in the the 3 strings are chorused making the instrument louder.
posted by mexican at 9:01 AM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not usually a big fan of Japanese music, but this is wonderful.
posted by kozad at 11:17 AM on October 29, 2008

Great post.

Never heard of him, and after listening, opened my eyes to another incredible cultural musical artifact.
posted by gcbv at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2008

Mexican: Noborikawa! My favorite release of his is Howling Wolf, which includes a cover of "Pistol-packin' mama."

Also, if this is the sanshin heroes thread, someone needs to give a shout-out to Kina Shokichi.
posted by No-sword at 2:51 PM on October 29, 2008

Not usually a big fan of Japanese music, but this is wonderful.

Just as the Amami Islands are situated between Japan and Okinawa, so their shimauta seems to be a kind of bridge between the musical cultures. It strikes me as a blend, and it's a most agreeable one. It's got some of the fluidity and relaxed feel of the Okinawan music a little further south, but just enough of the tautness, the rhythmic tension of its Japanese cousin to the north.

But that unexpected use of falsetto, to me that's what really makes it special.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:34 PM on October 29, 2008

Great stuff. That's definitely not the voice I was expecting to come out of that guy.
posted by bokeh at 1:43 AM on October 30, 2008

I'm sure you know this, flapjax, but there are also some Amami Island pop singers who sing in a similar style.
posted by mexican at 2:11 AM on October 30, 2008

I think I will play one of these at my Okinawan pop gig tonight. Thanks for the vids!
posted by billtron at 10:13 AM on October 30, 2008

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