The virtuoso players Shunsuke Kimura and Etsuro Ono are powerful innovators on the Tsugaru-shamisen and Shinobue (Japanese traverse bamboo flute). They have taken the traditional, dynamic, semi-improvised musical style from northern Japan (Tohoku region) in new contemporary directions, presenting both traditional pieces and new material which fuses original folk sound with the soul and blues rhythms of the West.
Formed in 2009, the duo immediately became popular and performed at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo, Malaysia in 2010, stunning the enthusiastic audiences of several thousand. In March 2011, they performed as part of the Hibiki-Festival at Kings Place, London, and RASA, Utrecht. Following this, in July 2011, they were invited to two established world music festivals, WOMAD UK and FMM in Sines, Portugal. Their performances at these festivals were greeted with great acclaim. Also in 2011, they were selected as official WOMEX11 showcase artists in Copenhagen.
In 2012, Kimura & Ono had a successful tour in Europe at major festivals and venues including the Forde Folk Music Festival (Norway), Les Suds de Arles (France), the Masala Festival (Germany), Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome (Italy), and Museum Rietberg (Switzerland).
In March 2013, their performances and workshops at WOMAD in Adelaide (WOMADelaide) and WOMAD New Zealand were enthusiastically welcomed by local media and audiences. In May, they completed 3 weeks- tour in Germany, Belgian, and Holland.Most recently they have performed with highest acclaim at Festival Mawazine, Rabat, Morocco and Festival Il de France, France.
The duo’s music assimilates the melodies and dynamic rhythms of carnival folk music which has been celebrated by people in Japan for hundreds of years. Their music illustrates the internal voice of nature, scenery and the seasons with a delicate nuance of musical colour and texture. It harmonises with the emotions of people, touching their hearts and souls universally and eternally.
They are frequently featured on media including BBC Radio 3, WDR and Australia Network.
“Shunsuke Kimura and Etsuro Ono have breathed new life into the music of the tsugaru-shamisen.” (Australia Network, March 2013)
BBC Radio 3 interview
About Tsugaru Shamisen
Tsugaru-shamisen was originally played by wandering blind artists who performed in front of people’s houses for their living, especially in the Tsugaru region of Northern Japan. By the middle of the 19th century, Tsugaru-shamisen was used simply to provide background music for folk singers. It later came to be appreciated gradually as a solo or ensemble instrument. As a solo instrument, the Tsugaru-shamisen requires very accomplished technique for speedy playing, a refined sense of dynamic rhythm and creativity for improvisation, like jazz. Nowadays, the dynamic, powerful but soulful and sensitive sound of Tsugaru-shamisen fascinates many people in Japan, and it has become popular again with the younger generation.
Shunsuke Kimura has travelled to every corner of Japan to find the various melodies, rhythms and styles of carnival and folk music which he has assimilated into his own music-making. His melodies are haunting and characterised by an ethereal serenity. His works tell a variety of nostalgic stories and he expresses the poetic image in nature, scenery and seasons with delicate nuance of colour and sounds.
In 2005, Shunsuke directed a live performance at the “Sense of Wonder” World Environmental Film Festival at Aichi Expo. In November 2006, he was commissioned to write the music and lyrics for “AMATERASU”, a special theatre project for the 25th anniversary of Kodo, the world famous taiko group, which featured a guest appearance by Bando Tamasaburo, the star kabuki dancer, in the female role. Because of its great success, the performance was repeated in August 2007 at Kabuki-za Theatre Tokyo. Also in 2006, as part of a festival arranged by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs Awards, Shunsuke composed music for a contemporary kabuki dance show “Ouna” featuring Hanayagi Tsurusuga, a noted kabuki dancer with poems by Suzue Miuchi, author of the popular manga Galasu no Kamen. Recently Shunsuke’s activities have been broadcast in NHK’s (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) programme Geijutsu Gekijo. Kimura lectures at University of Tokyo and Kyoto University.
Etsuro Ono is regarded as one of the most prominent performer of Tsugaru-Shamisen (Traditional three string-banjo) in the world. He is also a composer and arranger which enable Ono to explore new aspects of the unique powerful rhythm and sound of the Tsugaru-Shamisen.
Etsuro was raised in Akita, North East Japan, a region famous for folk music. Later he moved to Tsugaru, just north of Akita, to study with the famed Tsugaru-shamisen master Chisato Yamada. Following his studies he was a prize-winner at the renowned national Tsugaru-Shamisen competition in Hirosaki. Ono has also been a core member of the acclaimed folklore theatre company Warabiza which won many critical accolades on their worldwide tours. In June 2014 Ono released his first album “9 STORIES” comprising innovative original pieces together with more traditional offerings. The prominent guest folk singers Sachie Sato and Shunsuke Kimura. also feature on this album.