March 29, 2009, 11:54 am
Filed under: Japan


I’m a big fan of the shamisen and it’s ancestor the Chinese sanxian. Maybe it’s because the banjo was one of my first instruments? The shamisen and it’s family are typically three string fretless banjos with snake, cat, dog or calf skin stretched across the body.

The Tsugaru style shamisen is currently in vogue, thanks to the Yoshida Brothers. Tsugaru style is usually fast, with virtuosic playing and it is uses a bigger, heavier instrument. Incidentally, Tsugaru has an interesting history, as told in comic strip form by California’s own shamisen monster, Kevin Kmetz.

But these sparser, slower styles are sometimes more interesting to me, this one in particular reminds me how bluesy a lot of Asian and southeast Asian music can sound…Chinese guqin, Vietnamese vọng cổ and Khmer mohori music are some other examples

The song is the well known Yasuki Bushi which is associated with the “fish scooping dance” (see Excavated Shellac for another example). Here it is sung by Murano Koichi with shamisen played by Tachibanaya Kin-nosuke.

The label also indicates that this is a ko-uta; short songs typically sung by geisha.

>FUJISAN 2978a


(special thanks to Mary Mariko Ohno, director of the Kabuki Academy in Tacoma, Washington and  Linda Kako Caplan. Also, thanks Excavated Shellac’s JW for some work on the audio restoration…cheers!)


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great tune.

Comment by icastico

Hey great picture. Nice music, too. I’m hoping you can help me out with a question. What’s the name of the larger instrument lying across the floor, not the banjo like shamisen on the left; the bigger one. Thanks!

Comment by Dan

I think that’s a Koto, Dan.

Comment by g

Thanks for great tunes! Any idea of recording year of the vinyl?

Comment by yiolepotier

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: