Song Introduction: The Shamisenists - るろうに (Rurouni)
Here’s a thought. Punk Rock on Shamisens. Does that sound strange to you? It does, right? That’s because it bloody is. But here’s the thing. It works. Who knew that the anthemic music of teenage angst would pair so well with the traditional artistry of Tsugaru Shamisen. The Shamisenists have dedicated their career to demonstrating that versatility and on the song ‘Rurouni’ we are treated to yet another dimension of possibility from the 3-piece outfit.
The most immediately striking thing about this track is the drumming from the skinsman, Kyohei. As a drummer he has garnered renown for being technically sound and solid, and even though the band is often thrown into this punk/shamisen hybrid category for simplicity's sake, it is Kyohei’s nuanced drumming that keeps the band from becoming a simple parody of itself and submitting to that very one-dimensional pigeon-holing. On ‘Rurouni’ Kyohei’s approach is indeed furious, as he opens the track as if the band are in the middle of a heavy-as-all-hell breakdown, but later in the track he flares up with these brilliantly groovy fills. I dare you not to head bang to this.
The really great thing about this is that while Kyohei is totally tearing it up, the bass shamisenist (because that’s now a thing in case you didn’t know), Yuji, punctuates the beat like he’s playing in a thrash metal band. While he’s doing that lead shamisenist (also now a thing), Jack, counterpoints the whole thing with this beautifully haunting melody that I bet would be totally at home being played alongside a super scary Kaidan being told in an old broken down Ryokan in the cold northern hills of Aomori. On paper, none of this should work, but I can’t stop listening to it.
For fans of: The Yoshida Brothers, The HU, Wagakki Band