Review of Kenji Oh – Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura · Josetsu Horikawa by Giacomo Fiore, Pinna Records, 2017
A strange and curious meeting between different levels: the Japanese composer Kenji Oh and the Italian guitarist Giacomo Fiore, the traditional Japanese music and the Western prepared guitar, the Japanese conception of time and space and a Western musical codification. The result? Really remarkable. What I would like to highlight in this review is the really special character of this interesting synergistic meeting between different cultures, music and visions.
I think we are faced with a new way of redefining a cultural and musical aspect that for some time has interested me and annoyed me: the musical crossover. I have always loathed this term, I think it is a legacy of a backward cultural vision and partly subservient to both an orientalist and globalizing vision of today’s culture. “Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura Josetsu Horikawa” is a composition with strong links to Japanese culture and tradition that is codified and reset in a Western key: is it a crossover or is it something else? We have long been accustomed, above all, in mass culture to the “exotic” transposition of ideas from other cultures, coincidentally all from the East, but this composition and the way it is performed and interpreted show a metabolic form at a superior level, a new path, a new possible form of interaction between modes of expression, a new strategy, a new way of describing the position of an author (Kenji Oh), of an interpreter (Giacomo Fiore), of a text of the Kabuki theater (osetsu Horikawa) and an instrument (the guitar).
If since the most remote ages in Europe the East has been something more than it was empirically known and if in the dictionary under the name “East” we can find a series of representative figures or tropes, these music seem to me a deliberate, complex and a fruitful attempt to go beyond the cultural stereotypes we are accustomed to both in the East and in the West, overcoming the limits of stylized costumes, similar to those that the characters wear in a comedy of art.
Everything leads me to this conclusion: the music, the innovative use of the prepared guitar by Giacomo Fiore in search of the timbres and sounds of traditional Japanese instruments, the sense of breath and time that these music emanate, the beautiful illustrated booklet that accompanies this composition. I’m proud to have in my collection. “Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura · Josetsu Horikawa” is something new, fresh, interesting and engaging. Very beautifull.