Interview: Hibiki Ichikawa Talks Shami-sensational
Master tsugaru shamisen player Hibiki Ichikawa returns with his latest CD release Shami-sensational!
The blend of traditional and contemporary music across 8 tracks never sounds misplaced, both remarkably intertwine giving the listener a whole new shamisen experience.
Diverse Japan is honoured and delighted that the UK-based Japanese maestro, officially recognized as a world-leading talent of tsugaru shamisen, has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about the ins and outs of making Shami-sensational.
How would you describe the style and sound of Shami-sensational?
It is a very unique collaboration of traditional Japanese music and other instruments and it was arranged carefully by my ideas to keep the essence of traditional Japanese music.
What is the concept/idea behind the album?
‘Irodori’ is the theme of the album. Irodori means colouration.
Were all the tracks written specifically for this album or had some been composed previously?
All the original songs (except the folk songs) were specifically written for this album.
How long did it take to record?
The schedule was really tight as I had only 5-6 months.
Which track took the longest to record and why?
‘Polisk’ took a long time to have the best balance between the guitar sound and shamisen sound.
Tracks 5 and 6 (‘Otemoyanyan’ and ‘Akita Daikoku Mai’) are sung by enka singer Akari Mochizuki whom you regularly perform live with. What can you tell us about these two tracks, it sounds as though she is using some kind of voice box on ‘Otemoyanyan’?
‘Otemoyanyan’ is a vocaloid song. Akari’s voice was changed with a special arrangement. ‘Akita Daikoku Mai’ is a traditional Japanese celebration folk song from Akita. The kakegoe (small shouts of ‘Hai hai hai’) in between Akari’s lead vocals is also sung by Akari but her voice was changed to sound like a different person.
Apart from the shamisen you can also be heard playing a shinobue (Japanese flute) on ‘Otemoyanyan’. What other instruments can you play?
I used to play the guitar but not now.
The album packaging, designed by Ana Marques, is very appealing with some rather interesting symbols on the front and back cover. Can you explain their meaning and where they originate?
It was Ana’s idea to use those symbols. They are traditional Japanese family crests. The one on the actual disc is my family crest.
What inspires you to write music?
It comes with my sense when I try to write something. Several musical phrases come up and I assemble them together.
Your album is a fusion of Japanese folk and contemporary music. Which traditional and modern musicians do you enjoy listening to most?
My favourite modern musicians are MUSE and Radiohead and my favourite traditional musician is my teacher, Akihiro Ichikawa.
How much would you say you’ve changed as a musician and composer since making your first album Shamazing in 2012?
A lot has changed in terms of the scale of vision towards other parts of world since 2012. I’ve had lots of opportunities to go to European countries and my ideas have broaden.
What is it that you’re hoping to convey (communicate) to listeners through your music?
My main aim is to create the music that makes the listeners comfortable. I try to make music that is easy to listen to.
Shami-sensational is available for download at iTunes
CD format available at JP Books Piccadilly Circus, London and at Hibiki’s live performances.
Hibiki and Akari will be performing live at the Sands Film Studios, part of the Tuned In London series, on Wed 14th Dec, 7.45pm (doors 7.15pm)
Tickets adults £14.00 under 16 £8.00 available here.
Love, loss, hardship and a nostalgic pining for one’s hometown are the subject of the Japanese enka and “minyo” performed by virtuoso musician Hibiki Ichikawa (Tsugaru shamisen) and Akari Mochizuki (voice). The marriage of the distinctive rhythms of this unusual instrument with Akari’s quintessentially Japanese vocals will transport you to Hibiki’s native Tohoku, north eastern Honshu, the main island of this Far Eastern archipelago.