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Yoshida Brothers at Otakon 2010 and onward…

For convention goers, Yoshida Brothers were Otakon 2010’s Friday Concert guests, and for the rest of the world in terms of Japanese anime/gamers hobbies, they would probably have heard of Yoshida Brother from the initial American Wii commercials or even their cover for Disney’s Nightmare Before Christmas Revisted album.

The Yoshida Brothers are a contemporary Japanese duo that is famous for their shamisen music

Prior to Otakon, when I heard that they were coming, let’s just say that this was a highlight of my convention experience this year. Their appearance at Otakon is the beginning of their second United States Tour.  Following Otakon, I was happy and lucky to have seen them perform again in New York, the following Tuesday. I have reported earlier, their Otakon set list, [modified August 5, 2010 with a photo of their set list in Japanese]. This post is a partial summization/transcription of their Otakon press conference, with some recent impressions from their New York concert.

A bit of a history behind the Yoshida Brothers, they have been playing the shamisen for more than 15 years now, starting from the age of five years, to fulfill the dream of their father. They debuted at Japan in 1999, success caught them by surprise and then in the United States at 2003, when they introduced their brand of music to the world. Ryoichiro is the older Yoshida Brother, and Kenichiro is the younger brother. During the concert, they have used this interaction, seemingly to see which brother is the better shamisen player.The Yoshida Brothers definitely broke the image barrier of shamisen music being an aged old-fashion Japanese music.

Where do you get your inspiration of music from?

Kenichiro – World music

Ryoichiro – Hokkaido, where our home town is.

What are manga/anime titles that you paid attention to or read?

Kenichiro – Bleach

Ryoichiro – None

Were there always friendly rivalries between the two brothers?

Yes, mostly because no one in their age group even plays this type of music, so they can either challenge themselves or with one another.

Now which of the brothers is definitely better?

Depends on the fan’s taste. True rivalry is considered of self, where there is issue of competitions difficult, yet it is also important for them to be brothers.

Do they play any other instruments other than the shamisen?

No, the Yoshida Brothers definitely want to master the instrument that they currently play.

Taking the example of Nightmare Revisited, do other see themselves doing something different in the future?

No plans for the future, but there is a desire to do more covers of interesting music. Any collaboration done currently is at the request of the other artists, so the Yoshida Brothers are waiting. Instrumental music like theirs has the important ability to inspire others when going to a different venue each and every time.

Comparing the shamisen music, what western counterparts do they believe is a good counterpart to it?

Shamisen music has a good combination with traditional Spanish or percussion instruments as well.

What is their favorite food and region outside of the Japanese realm?

They like the Spanish tapas since it is in their opinion, the closet to the Japanese taste. The same goes for the Spanish locations that they have visited. [Spain]

How do they feel about their Western audience as compared to their Japanese audience?

Audience is different in reactions. Upon playing the shamisen for a western audience, the brothers have a feeling of being freer in their playing. Whereupon, for a Japanese audience, there is a more standardized responses, such as which part of music that is applauded upon. Shamisen music is in their opinion, the jazz of Japanese. [Upon questioning, other audience members of their concert, a feeling of bluegrass music is agreed upon.]

What are they looking forward on their United States tour?

To definitely showcase what they have been doing from Japan. Since shamisen can be solo music, they strive to go beyond the traditional barrier. They would like to have a full band with them on their U.S. tour.

What message do they have for their fans?

Shamisen is a wonderful instrument, and the Yoshida Brothers have an obligation to spread the sound of the shamisen to everyone in the world.

Now this was the extent of how much I can sum up from my notes of their Otakon Press conference. Following the next Tuesday, I was on my way to see them at the Highland Ballroom at the west end of 16th street. Now a bit of a history of my awareness of this act, at the earlier part of this year, tickets started to be sold for the Highland Ball venue. There were definitely $45 for the front row of position, and the rest of the venue was sold at $25, there was food and drink options. So my friend purchased two tickets, thus we were set for this concert..

This is an image from their Otakon concert, but it was definitely similar. The set list was the same. The performers were the same, I got to hear more closely, when Ryoichiro was thanking Ippiki, the percussionist. What made this concert different from Otakon,was the amount of people in the room, the products available that were sold after the concert, and the overall ambiance of the concert. I was definitely a bit closer to the stage, so I got to see more people, tapping to the beats of the music, or snapping away with pictures or movie cameras. There was also more Japanese people that were at this venue, what stood them out where the salary man dress, or the Japanese garb of a kimono or a yukata.

The Yoshida Brother’s second tour will have toured New York, Massachusetts, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, by the time their concert is over. I will have my memories of hearing a good band of a traditional Japanese instruments, not once, but twice – what an experience this is.

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