Takashi Hirayasu: Okinawan music, sanshin, R&B, Japanese rock, world music collaboration
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Takashi Hirayasu

Takashi Hirayasu is one of Okinawa's most successful artists, and one of many pioneering artists who are helping to bring these fresh and exciting sounds to the world at large. Hirayasu started out by playing blues, R&B, and rock at bars and clubs surrounding the American military bases in Okinawa. He discovered an interest in Okinawan shima-uta (island songs) in his early 20s, and started to play the sanshin, the Okinawan three-stringed snakeskin banjo.

He went on to join Shoukichi Kina and his family-based group Champloose as guitarist and arranger. They were the first musicians to mix traditional Okinawan sounds with rock on their first album in 1977, and were later joined by Ry Cooder on the 1980 album BLOODLINE. As a member of Kina's band, Hirayasu provided the dynamic rock element that defined the sound of Shokichi Kina and Champloose at their prime, and helped to turn the group into a legend. Hirayasu's pioneering work, combining shima-uta (the local music of Okinawa) and rock, helped to influence a new generation of Japanese rock musicians, among them Japan's most exciting roots band, Soul Flower Union.

During the 1990s Hirayasu began to concentrate on his solo career and released his first solo album, KARIYUSU NO TSUKI, which brought together all the musical elements of his life in Okinawa. The result was an album with an eclectic assortment of styles and sounds, honed together by an accessible and fresh production. He was joined on this album by Takashi Nakagawa and Hiroshi Kawamura of Soul Flower Union, and together they performed a cover of Soul Flower Union's now classic song, "Mangetsu No Yube."

The recording sessions for JIN JIN, on Taketomi, the smallest of the Okinawan islands, marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Hirayasu and Bob Brozman. The international release of JIN JIN, which has sold more copies than any other Okinawan record, propelled Takashi to start touring internationally with Bob in Canada, the USA, South Africa, and Europe, charming audiences everywhere they went. Because Takashi was part of the International Troupe, he was exposed to and strongly influenced by the music of Rene Lacaille, Djeli Moussa Diawara, Debashish Bharracharya, and Romane. This experience in turn, an ear-opening process, is reflected upon Takashi's ensuing recording with Bob, NANKURU NAISA, released early in 2002.

After the release of Nankuru Naisa, the duo toured extensively throughout Europe, including an all-night, 14-hour drive from Vienna to make a 2pm Paris radio show the next day. As a touring partner, Takashi is first rate, and his enjoyment of Europe was infectious. In 2002, The two friends continued their journeys, joining forces with René Lacaille and his musicians and with Debashish, Subhashis, and Sutopa Bhattacharya for a Pacific-Indian Ocean super-group tour in Europe and Canada. Later in 2002, Takashi, Bob, and René’s group traveled to Singapore for the WOMAD festival there, meeting many African and Asian musical friends. In 2003, Bob and Takashi played at both WOMADelaide and WOMAD New Zealand, where in both festivals Bob organized the finale with over 35 musicians from a dozen countries. In June 2004, all three artists (Takashi, Rene, Debashish, and Bob) reunited for a triumphant sold-out–weeks-in-advance ensemble concert at the Barbican Theatre in London. In September 2004, Bob returned to Japan for a string of special Okinawan shows around the Tokyo area with Takashi and his accompanying musicians. This latest version of Takashi and Bob’s “Tuff Man Gumi” had perhaps the most beautiful arrangements yet of Takashi’s music. Takashi maintains a full performing and teaching schedule in Japan year round.

Takashi Hirayasu masterfully combines Okinawan and Western musical styles
Takashi Hirayasu
photo by Claude Adams

Link to info about CD NANKURU NAISA
Bob Brozman and Takashi Hirayasu

Link to info about CD Jin Jin
JIN JIN (2000)
Bob Brozman and Takashi Hirayasu


*More info about Bob's work in Okinawa, Takashi's birthplace

*More info about Nankuru Naisa, Bob and Takashi's most recent CD

*More info about Jin Jin, Bob and Takashi's first CD