Monday, February 1, 2010

About Music - Oki Dub Ainu Band

OKI is an Ainu Japanese musician. His real name is Oki Kanō (加納 沖, Kanō Oki) and he is from Kanagawa Prefecture. He studied industrial arts at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. His father, Bikki Sunazawa, was a renowned wood sculptor. Oki uses the tonkori in his performances and mixes traditional Ainu music with reggae, dub and other styles of world music.

In 2005 OKI and his Dub Ainu Band burst onto the UK world music scene with a storming performance at WOMAD, taking the traditional North Japanese folk melodies played on the tonkori (a long, flat, unfretted guitar) and beefing them up with vocals, electric bass, percussion and occasional electric guitar to produce an exhilarating sound ranging from rock to dub to funk, without quite being exactly any of those things. It was all a thrilling surprise for those of us who were already aware of the outfit’s appealingly abstract but slightly uneven album that had just been released — the largely instrumental (and teasingly brief) Dub Ainu. Matters were made even more confusing towards the end of 2006 with the far more satisfying (but defiantly more considered and rootsy) team-up with Irish folkies Kila, which coincided with the return to our shores of that rocking concert line-up.

With OKI and fellow tonkori-player Ikabe Futoshi pulling some surprisingly varied rhythms out of this three-to-five-stringed instrument, their songs are pushed and pulled in all sorts of interesting directions by funky bass and percussion, and either filtered through subtle studio enhancement (mostly dub) or kept in its original raw but always melodic state.

Highlights of their latest album include a rousing version of Topattumi (which also appears on the Kila album) that is surely heading for anthem status amongst OKI fans, and the reggae-tinged Iyomante Upopo, which features some masterful electric guitar from Hirohisa, sounding like a dubbed up version of Mali’s Super Rail Band. The opener, East of Kunashiri, is probably the best overall embodiment yet of the OKI sound, being anchored in his native Ainu province by the distinctive tonkori twang but shot through with a resonant, other-worldly, dubby atmosphere. Find out more about him at:

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