While at first glance “traditional African music from Japan” might sound like a strange thing, Eriko Mukoyama, better known as Anyango has been doing it for well over a decade now, releasing albums that mix African music with her occasionally surfacing typically Japanese sense for melodies and vocal harmonies. She started her journey in 2005 when she went to Kenya to learn to play the nyatiti, a local stringed instrument… that is traditionally only played by men. Still, her dedication and stubbornness convinced a local master to accept her as an apprentice and she eventually became the first woman ever who was allowed to learn and master the instrument. She became sort of a local sensation in Kenya before she started to release albums in Japan in 2009.

Her first album contained only traditional songs, but later on she started to write music herself and also started to incorporate elements from other styles and with her latest album, Kanki she actually went a step further with that and it features tracks that use the African roots more as a starting point with each and every song taking the music to different directions. Sometimes they stay close to the source like Flying Pans At Tuesday Morning Market, while sometimes they wander off quite far, like Drought, which has an organic, progressive touch or the first track, Here Comes The Kamba Nane that includes violins and a bit of ’60s exotica. Later on, some pop influenced melodies also pop up here and there, along with more not-at-all African instruments such as the steel pan and Japanese bamboo flute. It is world music in the truest sense of the word and a pretty good example of how musical influences and instruments that come from some of the farthest corners of the world can work really well together. Not all the songs are equally strong, but all of them has something that makes them interesting and unique in their won way and there are some especially great ones like Bear Hunting, that mixes tribal drums, flute, a driving beat and ethereal singing.

The whole album, which this time features only Japanese vocals, has a very peaceful and positive vibe and its only shortcoming is its length: it is less than 30 minutes, which is a bit too short, especially as it was released more then five years after her previous one, 2015’s Savanna. Which was also probably her best one so far, but actually Kanki comes really, really close to that one.

2021.05.09 / cd, digital
01.カンバナネがはじまるよ (Here Comes The Kamba Nane)
02.アレゴへの手紙 (A Letter To Alego)
03.君と僕 さざめく自由 (Liberty In Between You And Me)
04.火曜市のフライパン (Flying Pans At Tuesday Morning Market)
05.世界は ただ黙り それを見ていた (The World Is Seeing It In Silence)
06.Bear Hunting 〜熊打ち〜)
07.厳しい日照り (Drought)
08.Kanki ~歓喜~


A year in reviews: in 2021 I was somewhat neglecting the site due to the lack of free time, but now I try to make up for it as much as possible, reviewing several important / good / interesting albums that were released this year. One for each day throughout December, from a very wide spectrum of genres. #2021reviews