Anyone that knows me knows that I love fusion and world music. When I first heard Béla Fleck and the Flecktones with their fusion of jazz and bluegrass, I was totally blown away. The other day, I was listening to my Blue Man Group channel on Pandora and I heard this really crazy fusion of prog rock, heavy percussion, jazz, and a Japanese genre called “Tsugaru-jamisen.” If you have ever watched a Japanese martial arts film, you may have heard Tsugaru-jamisen. The predominant instrument is the shamisen. A shamisen is a three stringed banjo-like instrument that produces a twangy percussive sound because it is played with a heavy plectrum called a “bachi” that is used to both pluck the strings and thump on the skin of the shamisen. It’s like Béla Fleck having grown up in northern Japan.
Let me give you an idea of the level of their crazy world-music fusion. As I am writing this, I am listening to the album “Yoshida Brothers II” for the first time. I don’t have liner notes, but here is a sampling of some of the instruments I think I’m hearing. On the track called Kagero, is Flamenco guitar playing counterpoint with the shamisen, tablas, and violin. Yuunagi has harp, piano, bells, and a variety of percussion toys like you would see in Neal Peart’s drum kit. The song Indigo, has a Hammond B-3, baritone and tenor saxes, electric piano, drum kit, electric guitar, bass guitar, and possibly a Mellotron.
As I listen more, I’ll gush more.