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CD Review: JIN JIN
Jin Jin - Takashi Hirayasu and Bob Brozman
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May 10, 2000

Pan-Pacific Blues


What happens when American guitarist Bob Brozman heads to the Japanese island of Okinawa to work with sanshin player Takashi Hirayasu? Does the music of two tropical Pacific islands intertwine as the two try to combine melodies of Hawaiian steel guitar with those of a fretless, snakeskin-covered Okinawan instrument with three strings (a cross between a guitar, bass and banjo)? In an age when record bins seem filled with cross-cultural collaborations, it seems more often than not that hopes for a musical soup turn out more of a salad. Not here. Jin Jin is a remarkably touching mix of Okinawan blues and Hawaiian folk with bits of blues from our side of the Pacific. Hirayasu's incredibly catchy vocals mixed with Brozman's blues and twangs yield an album that could be described as scorching cowboy music from the wild, wild East.

Brozman, a true guitar nut, hasn't put down the instrument since he began playing it four decades ago at the age of 5. He literally wrote the book on the history of Hawaiian guitar.

Working on the pan-Pacific Jin Jin, Brozman says that he found startling similarities between the music of Hawaii and Okinawa. He notes: "Every culture colonized has an element of blues." Magically, the romantic twangs of Brozman's steel-stringed Hawaiian guitar seem totally natural alongside Hirayasu's lonely sanshin.

Hirayasu is a veteran of Okinawan music. He began playing more than three decades ago, performing R&B covers in the Vietman War era for American serviceman stationed on Okinawa. He later joined the groundbreaking Okinawan folk-rock band Shokichi Kina. Feeling a need for a change, Hirayasu left Shokichi Kina in the 1990s to follow what he described as a "different path." Jin Jin uses many of the same incredibly catchy melodies that made Kina's songs instant cult pop hits, but here, with these intimate and spontaneous acoustic arrangements, the duo has come up with a timeless album.

Bob Brozman - King of the National Guitar

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