In my review of Grammy nominated composer and multi-instrumentalist Masa Takumi’s vibrant 2020 collection Heritage, I made a handful of nostalgic comparisons, equating the dynamic and prominent koto melodies to the epic sound of the fusion band Hiroshima and his blend of “intense, earthbound rhythms with transcendent flights of fancy and rich sonic detail” to the multi-textured music of Keiko Matsui.
While descriptions like that often help new listeners find a point of reference for an emerging artist, they’re not at all necessary to embrace the global music visionary’s compelling, infectious and exotic new global music album Sakura – whose deeply symbolic title translates to “cherry blossom.” This masterful eight song journey, from the mystical, hypnotic and atmospheric koto/flute driven title track through the expansive, tribal voice driven soundscape of “Inochi” (life), can be embraced in the present, with an eye towards a hopeful future, without any previous reference.
The L.A. based Takumi taps into his passion for exotic, multi-cultural, cosmopolitan vibes to embrace the symbolic hope offered each spring by the cherry blossom – the national flower of Japan. Produced by Takumi and Grammy winning artist Lonnie Park, the eight song collection gives these cherry blossoms the ability to bloom with a spiritual life force artfully represented by a groovingly eclectic flow, with melodies and harmonies driven by a freewheeling, ancient meets modern fusion of mainstream instruments (with Takumi leading the way on piano and Matthew Shell and Noshir Mody on guitar) and the ethnic graces of the Nigoni (Nadeem Maidalany), Bansuri, Dizi and Shakuhachi flutes (Ron Korb), soaring backing vocals (Naoki Tate, also on flute), percussion (Maidalany, Dale Edward Chung) and, whipping like a warm, beautiful wind through the blossoming trees throughout, the hypnotic koto of Miki Maruta.
Each song title (“Sakura,” “Katana,” “Kaze,” “Kotodama,” etc.) expresses a unique aspect of the connection between human life and the soul and symbolic elements of Japanese culture, and serves as a powerfully expressive sonic journey of its own. .