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Minyo Crusaders (JP)

Explosive blend of Japanese folk singing and Afro, Latin and Caribbean grooves

Few saw them coming, but those who have seen and danced to the cult sensation Minyo Crusader, will never forget them. The ten piece band hails from Fussa in the western part of Tokyo, and melds japanese folk songs with cumbia, afrobeat and other impulses from Latin-American, Carribean and African music. It is a musical path which might sound strange on paper, but on their stellar debut album “Echoes of Japan”, released this April on the London-based tastemaker label Mais Um, the orchestra most definitely make it work. It is a mixture that has made Gilles Peterson a convert and received praise from critics all over the world.

Min’yō is a japanese term for folk songs which has been used since the 20th century. The songs tell stories about the Japanese working class – fishermen, miners or sumo wrestlers. When the band uses cumbia, reggae and afrobeat as a backdrop for these stories, sung in the traditional way, it brings you closer to the core of the music than you might think. It is a way of breathing unexpected life into singing traditions that has survived as vernacular music, but also became institutionalized around the same time that the term Min’yō entered Japanese usage. There is a backside to preservation – music can risk becoming a museum object rather than a living thing. Through their intense live performances, Minyo Crusaders provides us with an antidote – they keep the Japanese folk music evolving by sending it on a trip around the world. This eclectic, but deeply loving way of interacting with their own tradition makes the band equal parts relatable, catchy and innovative.

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