Emi Tawata collaborates with apparel brand SOULSMANIA

Singer Emi Tawata’s latest mini album, “Sweet Soul Love,” was just released on the 18th and it features a collaboration with popular apparel brand SOULSMANIA. The combined effort produced a lineup of t-shirts that perfectly compliment both sides as the apparel from SOULSMANIA are influenced by black culture and Emi’s style of music is a mix of R&B and Reggae. The t-shirts will be available for sale during Emi’s “Sweet Soul Tour 2009” beginning March 24, 2009.

The video above is a promotional clip for her new mini album featuring the song “Baby Come Close To Me.” (A full version of the song can be found on YouTube.)

(via bounce.com.)

ういずあす – the trio formerly known as ‘wiz-us’

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Waiting for me in my inbox this morning was an email from Mark about a group from Okinawa named ういずあす. At first I didn’t recognize the group but upon further research (ah, googling how I love thee) I found that the trio formerly went by the name “wiz-us” (which is how the current name is pronounced in English—yeah, go figure). Anyhoo, that name was quite familiar to me because I purchased their debut single, “Toori Ame,” a couple of years ago. At the time, they were marketed as a J-pop group with an Okinawan-twist (not unlike what’s being seen in the popularity of artists from Amami-Oshima like Chitose Hajime and Kousuke Atari) by, I presume, their record label at the time SME Records. So, yeah, I was totally thrown off by the change from “wiz-us” to the Japanese “ういずあす” and how they’re now adorned in Ryukyuan costume. Checking out their profile, the change from J-pop to wherever they plan to go (O-pop? Minyou?) from here is not all fluff as all three are accomplished artists of Ryukyuan music and dance:

  • Rina Kinjo (22, Nago City): Uta-Sanshin (Saikoushou) for 13 years.
  • Reika Higa (23, Nanjou City): Uta-Sanshin (Saikoushou) for 14 years.
  • Ayano Oyakawa (23, Urasoe City): Ryukyu Buyou (Saikoushou) for 15 years.

Their discography (from their SME catalog) so far consists of their debut single “Toori Ame” released in March 2007 and a cover album, “Nakayukui,” released in December 2007. Looking at the discography you’ll notice the void between January 2008 to present so I’m assuming they’re going indie.

Links to find out more about ういずあす (I’ve left out the ones that link to wiz-us):
Official Website
Official Blog

Video: おきなわBBtv: They introduce themselves with their new name and also mention an upcoming single that they’re working on.

(Nifee deebitan to Mark for the tip!)

Rinken Teruya’s latest solo album “Pause 2” now on iTunes (and more)

Rinken Teruya (leader of the O-pop band Rinken Band) has been one of the most tech-savvy of his peers—as evidenced by the rinken.gr.jp website which has been around for several years as well as his willingness to release his music digitally. Although he’s had numerous projects in the past (like Tink Tink, Mihanagumi, Tomoko Uehara’s solo works, among others), he released his first solo instrumental album last year titled “Pause” and this year released the follow-up album, “Pause 2” (link opens iTunes). Both albums are available in the US iTunes Store.

Unfortunately, many of his other projects (like Tink Tink’s music) are only available at the Japan iTunes store. While we’re on that subject (i.e. of what those of us who live outside of Japan can’t get), I’ll share two iMixes[1] worth checking out. Please be aware that these links will open iTunes and log you off of the US store as it’ll open the Japan store. For an exhaustive look at artists with music available for sale at the US store, check out my special page: Listing of Artists on iTunes.

iMixes found at the Japan iTunes store:

  • Ryukyu Utahime Shu – an iMix of female singers from Okinawa.
  • Ryukyu Geinou Catalog – although I usually think of performing arts when I hear the word “geinou,” this iMix is just a collection of rock and pop artists from Okinawa.
  • Shimauta – an interesting iMix of artists covering THE BOOM’s “Shimauta.”

And although I haven’t done any in awhile, here’s a link to my iMixes (link will open the US iTunes store).

Back to post1 These are customer-created mixes that include links to the artists’ album. Both of the iMixes consist mainly of songs that are currently available only at the Japan iTunes store. Hopefully, this gives us a look at what may one day reach the US store too—especially the Parsha cluB stuff FTW!

Mark this date: 2/14/09 Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii

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One of my favorite artists of both Okinawan and Hawaiian music is Keith Nakaganeku (with his band Calabash) and I got a tip that he’ll be performing along with his friend Masaru Shimabukuro (BEGIN‘s guitarist) at this year’s Ukulele Picnic 2009 in Hawaii on Saturday, February 14, 2009. He’ll be singing “Nada Sou Sou” and Masaru will be backing him up on the Ichi Go Ichie instrument he and BEGIN designed with luthier K.Yairi.

There’s a pretty impressive lineup of musicians from Hawaii and Japan and best of all, the event is free, and will be held at the Kakaako Waterfront Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.

And if you haven’t purchased Keith’s debut album, “Hawaiian Jazz Done Asian Style,” it’s available on Amazon.com. (Image to the left contains a clickable affiliate link that helps out Karakui.com if you purchase the album from it. Nifee in advance! 😀 )

BEGIN’s record label, Teichiku, started up their own YouTube channel where you can find the band’s latest song, “Egao no Manma,” for viewing. I guess it’s a great way to see what Masaru looks like so you can give him a shaka and Aloha when you see him (and Keith too) at the Ukulele Picnic. 😉

(Nifee deebitan for the tip, Derek & Keith!)

Namie Amuro’s ‘BEST FICTION’ wins Japan Record Awards Best Album

The Japan Record Awards were held on Tuesday. The big winner was EXILE, who added the top prize to their growing list of honors this year. Their song ‘Ti Amo’ was chosen for the Japan Record Award out of 12 nominees, which included artists such as Kiyoshi Hikawa, TVXQ, and Kumi Koda. For EXILE, this is one step up from last year, when they won the Best Singer award with ‘Toki no Kakera.’

The title of Best New Artist was given to enka singer Jero, while Best Singer went to Mitsuko Nakamura. It was already known earlier this month that Namie Amuro’s ‘BEST FICTION’ was chosen for Best Album.

(Link: EXILE, Jero win Japan Record Awards – Tokyograph.)