Today, we’ll go back to Japan, around the early 1920s. Still very much in the acoustic recording era before electric microphones, this is a classic example of min’yō, the generic name for Japanese folk music, passed down locally through oral tradition. Min’yō, however, is a late 19th century term used as an umbrella for a variety of folk music: traditional work songs, dance songs, and the like. Interestingly, it is a direct transliteration of the German volkslied.
Usually most min’yō song titles start with a place name, as does this one: Yasugi, a town in the Shimane prefecture on Honshū island. Yasugi Bushi simply means “song from Yasugi” in English. It became popular in the early 20th century, especially when accompanied by a dance of the same name, which imitated the movement of scooping down to catch loach fish. It is sometimes known as the “loach catching song.”
The beautifully expressive Shimizu Itoko is the singer of the piece, and she is accompanied by Okui Ichisaburou on shamisen, Akizuki Daimaru on the koto, Hirotani Omann on the taiko drum, and Hiramoto Shoichi on the tsuzumi drum. You’ll also hear some of the traditional pitched exclamations throughout the song, known as kakegoe.
Many thanks to Makoto and Lena Watanabe for translation assistance.
Technical NotesLabel: NipponophoneIssue Number: 16728Matrix Number: same, with 1-A-1