Brothers in Shamisen – The Yoshida Brothers

You probably heard this song when the Nintendo Wii was first introduced in the United States. You have to admit it was a pretty nifty tune. Bet you didn’t know who composed it, didn’t you? Brothers Ryoichiro and Kenichi Yoshida, known collectively as The Yoshida Brothers, took the sounds of the traditional Japanese musical instrument, the shamisen, to audiences worldwide.

Born and raised in the Hokkaido region of Japan, The Yoshida Brothers mastered the art of Tsugaru Shamisen, the traditional style of playing in their native Aomori Prefecture. These two were grand champions of numerous Tsugaru shamisen competitions. Dressed in their traditional kimonos and armed with the mastering of ancient musical roots. However, don’t let these siblings fool you, they are also progressive rock freaks at heart. The Yoshida Brothers recently embarked on American tour which began at Otakon, an anime convention in Baltimore, Maryland. The brothers were accompanied by a percussionist. The repertoire ranged from traditional folk songs to modern rock interpretations. There were solos, of course. Younger brother, Kenichi, went for a slow tribute to the most Satanic melody of them all: The Diminished Fifth. You get the feeling he’s been listening to Black Sabbath albums in secret when he’s not practicing. Tony Iommi would be proud. Older brother, Ryoichiro, on the other hand, went for a faster approach with his solo with percussion accompaniment, There were times you could see Ryoichiro’s fingers flying off the shamisen fret board.

Have a look at the videos taken from their performance at The Highline Ballroom in New York City on August 3, 2010. You will be convinced that The Yoshida Brothers are the young masters of modern shamisen music, hands down.

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