RepublicKazue Sawai, koto : Eye to Eye (1987)***°°
Very beautiful playing on the 13-and 17-string koto, with a Kengyo Yatsuhashi track as my favourite ! Two narration songs are with Peter Hamill, Guy Evans. We hear also the beautiful voice of Hiromi Ohta on three Ayuo tracks (she used to be a famous pop voice, but now sings occasionally with Ayuo more often). Last track is by Yuji Takahashi, (famous composer & extraordinary pianist) -which also happens to be Ayuo’s father-.
Ayuo : * "I actually wrote 6 tracks on this CD, and produced it. Robin Williamson (of the Incredible String Band) composed one track. Yuji Takahashi composed one track. It was my idea to ask Kazue Sawai to play Kengyo Yatsuhashi's Midare because I wanted to play around with the effects and reverbs. This track was not well recieved here because if you can imagine something like a well known classical piano piece by Beethoven with a lot of effects and reverbs, you can imagine what many conservative classical listeners would have said. The most well recieved were the two songs in English and Robin Williamson's solo piece, which is now a part of the repartory of traditional koto music.
Midi Inc.Ayuo Takahashi : Nova Carmina (1986)***°
There’s a great variety on this disk so I have to listen a few times more before being able to describe it all, going from what sounds like medieval music (one song, sung by Maddy Prior*) over traditional Japanese and other cultures' folk elements over to 70’s progressive pop. Nice! Some arrangements are done more minimal with keyboards compared to the more known later Ayuo pieces.
Other participators : Dave Mattacks *, Peter Knight, Peter Hamill, David Lord, Aideen Mongan, Sanshin.
* Steeleye Span
H²O EarthmanAyuo : Stoned (2002)**°°
This album is made to be performed with a stone-art exhibition held by photographer Ken Awazu. A couple of tracks are more landscape-descriptive with breath as instrument, experimental voices, and poetry like narrations (in English), often like ambient music. At least one (“Devotion”) or a couple of tracks seemed to be influenced by Peter Hamill (sung by Ayuo). Another song “Daybreak”° is somewhat more Middle Eastern styled (voice, guitar, whistle). Then we also have a few more acoustic tracks. One of my favourite of these is “Geronimo”, with thumbpiano and flutes and Japanese female vocals effective in a minimal performance. The last track is a performance with the sounds of stones.
°Ayuo : "This is an improvisation between myself and the Bosnian singer, Jadranka. She was a star in Yugoslavia during the days of President Tito."
CarminaAyuo Trio + : Live bootleg :
we are the space between the sea and the moon(rec.1994,1997,1998)*°°°
The first part is mainly more heading towards singer-songwriting (like Peter Hamill), sung in English. I first wondered why English, and if Japanese not would have sounded more heartfelt going ? but later I heard English is actually Ayuo's native language.° I really like the guitar playing of Ayuo on the first two tracks. The second part has various middle eastern tracks, played on bouzouki (also sung in English, which fits most perfect with the middle eastern rock feel in them). On “Tao” his improvisation seems to have real appealing effect on the public. Then comes in a second, electric guitar, with its psychedelic wa-wa effect. At “He needs something to believe in” also a clarinet ios added (with the bouzouki, guitar and electric bass). On the last (fantastic) middle eastern track, “The Holy Man and the sinner within” the sound reminded me a bit of the German rocksinger Alex° at his best, or perhaps this might be even much better than what Alex ever tried to acchieve with his music. (-Alex performed Turkish music in a rock way in the late 70's, later on his music sadly became more and more normal rock-). Incredible this comes from an all Japanese band !
* “My parents divorced when I was quite young. I grew up with an Iranian-American step-father, who came from a family of court musicians for the Persian Shah. I grew up listening to a lot of Persian traditional music in New York City. I wasn't speaking Japanese at home either. So this is the answer to why there is a lot of Middle Eastern influence in my music, and why a lot of it is in English. I am, however, trying to increase the amount of songs in Japanese, and there is a lot more in Japanese now, then there was at the time "Live Bootleg" was recorded." Ayuo
°"The strange thing is that most Asians (including Japanese, Chinese, amd Koreans), who've heard some of my music go for the songs I sing in English, rather than anything else, while Europeans and Americans usually prefer the songs sung in Japanese, often by a female singer. Recently a film director in Beijing asked me for permission to use a lot of songs from "Live Bootleg" on the soundtrack of his next film, which for the moment is only distributed in the People's Republic of China. He said he liked the way my voice sounds in English. When my CD "Siongs from a Eurasian Journey" was released in South Korea, they asked me if they could cut out all the songs in Japanese, some which were sung by a famous pop singer here named Epo. When I said this to a buyer at Tower Records, he said that maybe the Japanese and Asian listeners are listening with their bones instead of with their minds. Songs such as Devotion or many of those on this CD are written very quickly from 30 minutes to an hour usually in a flash of intuition. The English is often simple enough for the Japanese audience to know what's going on, but the expressions used are different from what an Englishman or an American would write. This seems to communicate to the Japanese listeners. Often it takes hours of struggling to complete a text in Japanese, and they have to be checked and re-checked to make sure the Japanese isn't strange. I also use a number of professional writers to help me translate some of my words into Japanese.
When using an ancient text like that in IZUTSU, I have to come to it from the English translation and a pronounciation guide in alphabet. This is in a language that most people in Japan will not understand unless they've studied the ancient language. The music is then checked by some of the best experts in that field to make sure it's accurate. Many of the players on that CD are some of the best known today in traditional instruments. I also composed another piece based on an ancient Noh play called "Aoi no Ue". This was performed by players who really know the ancient language from deep within themselves. This was recrded, but remain unreleased.
I have recieved e-mail from a number of people in Japan, who complain that Ohta Hiromi's sings the traditional song, Takeda no Komoriuta as if she doesn't understand the meaning of what she is singing, and that on other tracks her vocals sound either artificial or contrived. Although it's true that Takeda no Komoriuta is in a old language from a western province that none of us can speak, we felt that she was able to communicate the emotions through her singing. In some of the other songs, the words have a slightly older feel to them than modern Japanese.
As you probaby know, Japanese is not my first language or a language I can speak without an accent. However, the same thing also applies to Kan Mikami or Shuji Terayama, the great poet who wrote many theatre pieces for Tenjo Sajiki. In all of their recordings, they are speaking or singing with a thick northern accent, which they will never be able to take out of their voices. Much of my first recordings were in Japanese, but the record companies told me to use English instead because the Japanese buyers will find them too strange. I have also had a violently negative reaction during my show, when a woman screamed for me to shut up in Japanese, and use English only. I, however, feel that Japanese with an accent should also have its rightful place here. In some of my recent works, I use some words by Shuji Terayama. My accent seems to remind some listeners of Shuji Terayama's own accent. Doing a live show with Kan Mikami was also a great inspiration. In some of my recent shows, I am also singing songs like "E no Naka no Sugata" from "Red Moon". Someone told me my singing in Japanese sounds like someone who is mentally handicapped. But people will also know it's real and not contrived because this is the way I really speak the language. I am now trying to use this disadvantage as an advantage, and increasing the amount of material in Japanese." Ayuo
Last remarks :
* Ayuo, once called by John Zorn one of the most enigmatic figures from Japan, compared to the individuality of Moondog for instance, surely creates music which succeeds to make its own musical definition with a world vision on music, as a blend of Japanese music with elements of Middle eastern and Western Music essences of characteristics. This "new mucic" stands very much on its own.
radioshow's playlist with many more comments (also from Ayuo)
(broadcast from 2004-06-30) here New CD for Tzadik was released end 2005->