Music Review: Asian Anthology by Rock of Asia
It’s true that I am not that familiar with contemporary music from the East side of the world. When I think of Japanese music, I tend to imagine something classical and traditional-sounding, or electronic-inspired pop songs that were popular throughout the 1980s. Or even something industrial, like Dark Model. But, none of these represent the true diversity of the country’s contemporary music, and that includes rock.
When I first listened to Rock of Asia on Asian Anthology, I was truly blown away. The music is rich, with different styles and influences. There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the fact that it’s spearheaded by Japanese-born musician Nikki Matsumoto. To me, his work’s essence is similar to Eugene Hütz’s of Gogol Bordello fame. Both musicians borrow elements of music from cultures that they were exposed to, and mix and match them to create something new.
In Matsumoto’s case, he fuses folk music with rock and chamber music. But, unlike rock music, his band relies on acoustic instruments such as guitars, shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown bamboo flute), biwa (Japanese short-necked lute), sanshin (a three-string instrument, similar to a banjo, covered in snakeskin) and Violin — and it’s absolutely awesome. The resulting melodies are organic and clean, but intricate and beautifully arranged.
The musical ensemble featured on Rock of Asia consists of Nikki Matsumoto, who supplies vocals and plays the biwa, guitar, bass, sanshin, and taiko (percussion); Yasuhisa Murase, who plays acoustic guitar, Kizen Ohyama on shakuhachi; Kay Suzuki on violin, and Kouzan Oyama on shamisen. Other musicians provide backup assistance. The band has been going strong for over a decade, having officially formed in 2010.
According to the official press release, Nikki Matsumoto was born in Tokyo, Japan. He formed his first rock band at the age of 14, moved to California when he was 18, played with American musicians in the Los Angeles area throughout the mid 1980s and 1990s. He is an accomplished composer, lyricist, vocalist, producer, and musician who plays guitar, biwa, bass, keyboards, etc..
He believes that people across the world are the same and that music is a great tool for bringing them together. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons he sings in different languages, relies on a number of different influences, and attempts to spread elements of his culture across the world through song. As a social activist and modern day philosopher, he believes that creativity is a powerful tool for compassion, art, and change.
1. Lal Dhaga (4:36)
2. Solitary Friend (4:35)
3. Belief (4:13)
4. Guardian Of The Sea (3:26)
5. MIKOTO (5:54)
6. Kojo No Tsuki (3:00)
7. Vision Led On (4:40)
8. Ocean (4:18)
9. The Parallel (5:36)
10. Nanimo Shirazu Tada (4:52)
11. The Unsaid (4:13)
12. FUNATO (5:34)
13. The Son (3:52)
14. The Daughter (4:03)
Note* Music provided for objective review by our partners.