Music Mondays: Yoshida Brothers

I did it again! I discovered somebody. And wouldn’t you know, the Japanese can make some pretty incredible music with traditional Japanese instruments.

This latest discovery (thought they’re at least a year and change old in my discovery) is the Yoshida Brothers who hail from the island of Hokkaido in Japan (yes, where Sapporo beer is from, double score!).

They use only a traditional Japanese instrument called the shamisen which is akin to the guitar or sitar but different. But spellt different. It’s a three stringed instrument with a neck to finger and a plucking instrument that looks like a large comb called a bachi (similar to the type that’s used to bang the large taiko drums of Japan). It has a higher pitch and less of a range than a guitar but is no less enjoyable to listen to.

And these guys play it so incredibly well that you don’t even care what it is that’s making the music, just that it sounds so good. Of course, they throw in some electronic and synth sounds to accompany their shamisen but it’s really about that composition and instrumental play that’s at the heart of it all. Here’s one song of theirs:

Yoshida Brothers, “Storm”

And not unlike Break of Reality, they have done a cover of famous rock songs. This one is their version of Radiohead’s “National Anthem”:

Yoshida Brothers, “National Anthem”:

And if you ask me, they outdid the original. Pure musical genius.

I mentioned that the shamisen (sometimes samisen or as a suffix -jamisen) is like a guitar. But really, it’s a lot more like a banjo. If you don’t believe me, here’s the proof that it can transcend cultures and once again be played for the very same music banjos were once known… yes, you got it: blues

Yoshida Brothers, “Overland Blues”:

And here they are, stripped down to the mostly bare essentials:

Yoshida Brothers, “Akai Tori/Red Bird”:

And even further down to the most bare essence of just the shamisen:

Yoshida Brothers, “Blooming (Live performance)”:

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I want to write my “House of the Rising Sun” story now…

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