Published on May 18th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron


Album Review: “Copper Sunset” by Ozaki Shuhei

1969336_10152278705406154_1551553257_n-620x350One of the quirks of Japanese culture is that it’s still in love with CD, cassettes, and to a lesser degree, vinyl records.

Streaming services such as Spotify have yet to enter the market. While people aren’t adverse to renting CDs for a couple of bucks from Tsutaya — a book, movie, and music retail and rental chain — and ripping what they want onto a computer, a protected market have allowed CDs to retain primacy.

This has meant that Japanese bands without international distribution (i.e., most of them) have remained locked within the country’s borders. Motivated international fans might go to the trouble of ordering a record via a Japanese music store or label, but the diverse and thriving ecosystem of local music remains largely unexplored, and that’s a shame, because that’s where the very best must exists.

Fat and warm like a slow-moving river, these three ragas showcase Ozaki’s ability to create and hold an atmosphere

Recently, though, more and more independent musicians and bands are seeing the value of services such as Bandcamp, which allow them to sell their music to anyone, anywhere, at any time of the day or night by download or physical formats.

One I’m extremely grateful has chosen bandcamp to release music on is Kobe-based classical Indian musician Shuhei Ozaki.

10156061_651893204847247_4527119560273569846_n-225x300Ozaki is a full-time, classically trained sitarist who supports himself gigging at cafes, art galleries, even private residences, playing to small groups of people interested in Indian music and culture. Despite being one of the most highly skilled (and certainly most unique) players in the country, Ozaki’s audience has been limited to this exclusive group.

Recent overseas attention from some high-profile musicians in Europe and the USA — and enthusiastic reception to some pretty low-quality YouTube videos shared on Twitter — has helped spur the release of this new three-track album entitled Copper Sunset.

Fat and warm like a slow-moving river under a setting sun, these three ragas showcase Ozaki’s ability to create and hold an atmosphere, evoking the soul of India with unique style.

Beautiful melodies swoop and soar over the drone of sitar and tamboura, deft tabla beats driving each piece forward into the golden light, picking up pace and climaxing in blisteringly fast finger-work.

Ozaki’s most impressive talent, though, isn’t fast fingering: he is a deeply impressionistic and passionate player that can pull surprising stabs of emotion from the listener in a single enunciated note. The music feels like a conversation as well as a meditation—a weird combination of feeling relaxed and stimulated at the same moment.

The recent renaissance of psychedelic rock has introduced a lot of listeners to elements of ethnic music and instrumentation, and the internet has allowed them to explore it as deeply as they want with relative ease. It’s great to see Ozaki’s Indian music by way of Japan is now part of the mix.

Copper Sunset is available for download in your choice of format on Bandcamp for a very affordable sum—just 600 yen or US$5. Head over and grab your copy now.

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Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

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