The Yoshida Brothers, Japan's young masters of the ancient tsugaru-shamisen, are back with a new album, Prism.
The Yoshida Brothers, Japan's young masters of the ancient tsugaru-shamisen, are back with a new album, Prism. The aptly-named release reflects their long-standing commitment to traditional Japanese folk music, refracted through modern musical sensibilities, incorporating elements of pop, rock, and world music sounds.
On Prism, the Yoshida Brothers have collaborated with some notable talents, such as Southern California singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop, who wrote the Celtic-tinged "One Long River" and David Baerwald, the singer-songwriter who provided the whimsical track "Mr. Nagano's Foolish Proposal". And "Summer Day" marks a collaboration with keyboardist and producer Mitchell Froom (writer of the Yoshida Brothers' "Hit Song") with additional songwriting contributions from drummer Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos, Edie Brickell) and Phantom Planet vocalist Alex Greenwald.
These album stand-outs fit comfortably alongside more traditional examples of Japanese folk like "Hu Jin" and "Aiya," plus the Brothers' inspired cover of "The National Anthem" from Radiohead's Kid A. The album's final track, "End of the World," was featured on the soundtrack to the Mark Wahlberg/Joaquin Phoenix film, We Own the Night, further enhancing the Yoshida Brothers' profile in America.
In their relatively short professional lives, the Yoshida Brothers have had quite an impact on the modern music landscape. The Hokkaido-born brothers Ryoichiro and Kenichi Yoshida have become recognized masters of their signature instrument, the tsugaru-shamisen. Originating in China in the 16th Century, the three-stringed instrument found its way to Japan through traveling folk musicians and became an integral element of Japanese classical music. The Yoshida Brothers have now taken the tsugaru-shamisen further than any other modern musician, practically reinventing its sound, leading to a musical style both firmly rooted in the traditions of the past and boldly looking forward to the future.
In another recording and marriage of modern and traditional sounds, "Prism" is evidence that the Yoshida Brothers continue to push boundaries in their pursuit of musical exploration, constantly redefining the sound of the shamisen and how it can be fused into new, unique soundscapes.