Mkwaju Ensemble / MKWAJU
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Official reissue of holy grail album MKWAJU by acclaimed Japanese percussionist Midori Takada’s MKWAJU ensemble, sourced from the original masters and available in two versions: a vinyl LP cut at Emil Berliner Studios (formerly the in-house recording department of Deutsche Grammophon) and a digipack CD.
Originally recorded in February and March 1981 and released by fabled Japanese avant-garde label Better Days (home of Ryuichi Sakamato’s debut album, Yasuaki Shimizu’s Kakashi, Colored Music self-titled LP and many more) MKWAJU is the fruit of the collaboration between Takada’s crew and world-famous composer/musical director Joe Hisaishi, the man behind most of of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli anime soundtracks and over 100 other films scores, including Takeshi Kitano’s Sonatine, Hana-Bi, and Kikujiro. The ensemble’s transcendental wonder is, in fact, the first-ever Midori Takada album and the first-ever Joe Hisaishi-produced album. Historic.
Led by Midori Takada on marimba, gong, vibraphone, and tom tom, MKWAJU is an inventive and riveting take on Eastern and Western minimalist traditions, African rhythms, and early electronica. Drawing from its jazz-rooted polyrhythmic improvisations in the most inventive ways, the album covers a wide spectrum of sounds, from colorful dance floor-ready percussion pieces that stand somewhere between proto-techno and experimental synth-pop, to cinematic ambient landscapes and ethereal drone delicacies. The feverishly sought-after full-length is a stepping-stone in Midori Takada’s career and an all-around pioneering album.
Alongside Takada and Hisaishi (who not only produced the album but also played synthesizers), personnel on MKWAJU includes famed Japanese musicians Yoji Sadanari and Hideki Matsutake of KI-Motion fame, Junko Arase (heard on Satoshi Ashikawa’s legendary Still Way – Wave Notation 2), and Pecker (whose stacked resume boasts collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Jun Fukamachi).