Umeko Ando – Ihunke

Umeko Ando – Ihunke
Pingipung 060

Umeko Ando (1932-2004) was a folk singer from Japan. She is a representative of the Ainu culture on the Hokkaido Island in the north of Japan.

Ihunke is her first album which she has recorded with the Ainu musician and dub producer Oki Kano in 2000. This re-release of Ihunke is the first time that Umeko Ando’s music is available on vinyl (DL included).

The traditional Ainu songs on Ihunke range from lullabies (Ihunke) to songs for the bear ceremony (Iyomante Upopo) or hunting songs about bows and birds (Saraba Iya Ko Ko). They are built on Oki Kano’s Tonkori patterns, over which Umeko Ando develops her repetitive, mantric vocals, often in a call-response manner. The Tonkori is a 5- string harp which is held away from the body and plucked with the fingers. Oki Kano is one of very few professional Tonkori players who performs worldwide with his Oki Dub Ainu Band.

The Ainu have suffered discrimination in the past centuries when their culture was supposed to assimilate to Japan. Only recently, in 2008, have they been officially acknowledged as indigenous people who are culturally independent of Japan. This record is an example of how the music has been passed on through generations in the oppressed and underground Ainu communities. It deserves a huge audience.

Oki Kano: “It was a lot of fun to record with Umeko Ando. Many Ainu hesitate about changing tradition - if Umeko hadn’t been so flexible to work with the younger generation and recording technology, this album would never have happened. Our sessions were intense, and we were proud and happy about making such beautiful music.”

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