Los Angeles, USA – Poised for their landmark American debut this summer, Yoshida Brothers, the Yoshida Brothers are already veritable rock stars in their native Japan. Siblings Ryoichiro and Kenichi have struck a deep cultural chord with their enthralling “East meets West” revival of traditional Japanese folk music, reinventing it for a new generation. Clad in formal, ceremonial attire of kimonos and hakama pants, but sporting the dyed light brown hair that is trendy among Japan’s savvy youth, the Brothers play the age-old Tsugaru-shamisen—an instrument akin to a rustic three-stringed banjo—with the fervor of Jimi Hendrix. Incorporating jazz-like improvisation, pop-rock sensibilities, and disparate global music idioms into their virtuoso shamisen mastery, the framework of the Yoshida Brothers’ art may be traditional, but its essence and spirit are altogether revolutionary.
It’s spurred a revolution in sales as well–shamisen albums normally don’t top 5,000, but the Yoshida Brothers’ first album, 1999’s blockbuster Ibuki, has exceeded the 100,000 mark, an astounding statistic by any standards, and they have since delivered three more top-selling CDs in Japan.
Their US debut was yesterday, August 12. Los Angeles-based Domo Records brings this musical phenomenon to the U.S., the self-titled Yoshida Brothers, featuring eleven inspired pieces culled from their overall repertoire.
While the Yoshida Brothers play upwards of 100 sold out shows annually in Japan—at venues averaging 2,000 in capacity—they have never toured internationally. In support of their forthcoming Domo Records debut, Ryoichiro and Kenichi will visit the U.S. for the first time, and, in addition to doing promotional press, will perform industry showcases in Los Angeles and New York City. They return to the United States in October for a to-be-announced series of concert dates open to the public. To complement their dynamic cross-cultural artistry, the Yoshida Brothers will perform in both traditional Japanese garb and, later in the show, contemporary western dress.
Now in their mid 20s, Ryoichiro and Kenichi Yoshida began playing the Tsugaru-shamisen (also the name of the genre of music it is associated with) at age 5 in Hokkaido, their home in northern Japan, where they studied with master Takashi Sasaki.
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