Damn right they've got the blues
When it comes to connecting the blues to its roots in West Africa, the research has been lengthy and forensic. But when you hear the music of Shunsuke Kimura and Etsuro Ono, you suspect that Japan deserves at least a brief footnote in that history. The pair play tsugaru-shamisen, a style of semi-improvised Japanese folk music originally played by itinerant blind musicians in the 19th century that Shunsuke and Etsuro are now reclaiming with passion and vigour. As well as being the style, tsugaru-shamisen is also the name of its main instrument, a three-stringed affair that makes a deeply appealing, versatile sound, one that can dip from fast and frenetic to slow and stately. And when it's played alongside a Shinobue bamboo flute - a combination favoured by Shunsuke and Etsuro - you can't help but be reminded of two old bluesmen on a Mississippi front porch, guitar and harmonica in their hands.
(Biography written by Nige Tassell 2011
Photo: Kojima Yasuo)