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PREMIÈRE: Boogaloo and Japanese Folk Traditions Combine on Minyo Crusaders’ ‘Tanko Bushi’

By 02 August, 2019

Rarely has a name seemed so apt as Minyo Crusaders. This group from Japan [the first Japanese group to grace Sounds and Colours, for reasons you’ll soon find out] play minyo, a type of traditional Japanese folk song that is falling out of favour in modern-day Japan. Minyo Crusaders are here to resuscitate it back to life. And they’re doing that by injecting it with dub, afrobeat and tonnes of Latin rhythm.

“Tanko Bushi” – whose video you can check out right here – is the perfect example. The song is traditionally performed at Japanese Bon Dance festivals (an event which has evolved into a family holiday where people return to ancestral family places to clean their ancestors’ graves in expectance of their ancestors returning to inspect them). These festivals have been happening in Japan for more than 500 years. “Tanko Bushi” would have been originally sung by coal miners, but after the song was released first in 1932 and then on subsequent occasions, it became known throughout the country.

Minyo Crusaders give the original a revolutionary twist by matching the lyrics to a boogaloo rhythm, breathing new life into this decades-old melody. It’s one of the highlights of the group’s debut, Echoes of Japan, which also features Japanese minyo songs given afro, Ethiojazz, bolero, cumbia, reggae and Beguine treatments, always with the group’s clear enthusiasm and passion (for both minyo and global rhythms) at the forefront.

The video was filmed in Fussa City, West Tokyo, where the group is based. Kastumi from the band had this to say about the video:

“The video stars singer Freddy Tsukamoto as the ‘messenger of minyo‘, who has landed in Fussa City, Tokyo. The people of Fussa have forgotten the local folk songs and so, alongside the other members of Minyo Crusaders who are all wearing Japanese masks such as Hyottoko (clown), Fox, Monkey, Tengu (long-nosed goblin), Oni (demon) and God that are traditionally used in local festivals, they perform ‘Tanko Bushi’ to help them to remember minyo”.

Kastumi, Minyo Crusaders

Minyo Crusaders’ debut album Echoes of Japan is available now on Mais Um. The group will be performing a tour of Europe in November 2019, with a show at London’s Jazz Cafe on 11th November.

Current tour dates below:

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