The heart and soul of many a Japanese festival can be found in the folk songs floating through the air. Youngsters clap and dance, couples laugh and grannies smile and nod in fond memory. HYPER JAPAN wouldn’t be complete without its own share of folk songs, commonly referred to as enka and minyo, performed by Hibiki Ichikawa and Akari Mochizuki.
In the whole of the UK, Hibiki Ichikawa is the only professional player of tsugaru shamisen; a traditional 3-stringed instrument played using a large pick called a bachi. In recognition of his great skill, he has been qualified to perform under a “Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa”, which is granted only to the most proficient artists. Hibiki frequently performs at festivals and formal occasions, including the Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square, the Japanese Emperor’s birthday celebrations at the Japanese Embassy, as well as in theatre productions. His 2012 album ‘Shamazing!’ can be downloaded here from iTunes!
Akari Mochizuki is from Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture. At the tender age of three, she began singing enka (a variety of traditional Japanese music which often takes the form of sentimental ballads) thanks to the influence of her father, who was a great fan of the genre. Akari studied drama in Cambridge and modern music in London, and started working as a professional singer in 2009. She has performed as an enka and minyo (Japanese folk music) singer for numerous occasions, including WOMAD 2010 and Japan Matsuri 2009 and 2010.