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The second set began with a solo Jews Harp, or 'mukkuri' by Oki, with a certain virtuosity inspired perhaps by Umeko Ando with whom Oki had worked on a recording in 2003. Although only playing one note, he varied his mouth shape to produce varying resonances that affected the pitch, creating melodic and rhythmic patterns, varying from four to three to two beats, building up an exciting climactic texture near the end with the additional mukkuri. A bluesy song followed, with a riff on bass guitar and a combination of English and what seemed to be Japanese lyrics, with an apparently slightly political message about protecting natural habitats and then a high cry from the second singer, adding a folkish quality to the blues idiom.

The music raised the fascinating question as to how far the traditional instruments, the Tonkori, mukkuri and some jangly percussion made from shells and bells, were used to blend with the modern and how far to contrast with it. While the amplification and use of guitar and percussion were emblems of globalisation, both the instruments and the various styles, Ainu, African and others, added their distinctive regional variants and accents to the fusion. As well as a stimulating lunchtime focus, the concert's bonhomie and leisurely mood also whetted one's apetite for Oki's evening concert at The Spitz (9pm). CDs on sale featured his album No One's Land and also a solo CD Oki Tonkori on the Chikar Studio label, available from

Copyright © 15 July 2006 Malcolm Miller, London UK




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