Review: Kishi Bashi – Violin Tsunami

Photo credit: Max Ritter

When an ordained Buddhist priest of Japanese-Brazilian descent gift Kishi Bashi a violin, he was instantly inspired to create the piece ‘Violin Tsunami’.

The priest and luthier told Kishi that the violin embodied his prayers for the victims and survivors of the 2011 Fukushima Disaster, into the making of the instrument.

This had a profound effect on Kishi Bashi who upon holding the instrument, felt drawn to creating a piece relating to the injustice of Japanese-Americans jailed during WWII.

Violin Tsunami is a haunting piece of music that grips the racing heart, yet the words have the ability to soothe, bringing about acceptance and enlightenment for the past. “When our faith was on the edge of the wind…the setting sunlight would tell a different way to be…” he sings.

The song is taken from album Omoiyari. Channeling the hard-learned lessons of history – and reckoning with the country’s past internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII – Omoiyari is an uncompromising musical statement on the turbulent socio-political atmosphere of present-day America.

“I was shocked when I saw white supremacy really starting to show its teeth again in America,” Kishi Bashi says. “My parents are immigrants, they came to the United States from Japan post–World War II. As a minority I felt very insecure for the first time in my adult life in this country. I think that was the real trigger for this project.”

Kishi Bashi recognised parallels between the current U.S. administration’s constant talk of walls and bans, and the xenophobic anxieties that led to the forced internment of Japanese-Americans in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbour. He immersed himself in that period, visiting former prison sites and listening to the stories of survivors, while developing musical concepts along the way.

The unique creative process behind Omoiyari will be documented in a film scheduled for release in early 2020.

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