An amazing blend of modern orchestration and arrangement strategies with ancient Japanese Court sounds, instruments and vocals from previous centuries. I hear a sound and rhythm resonant with multi-textured compositions that are friendly to the fingertips all the way to the toes for the beat, as well as to the ear for the groove, that carries layered meanings. For me this is an unmistakable sonic representation of the legendary island nation of Japan set in the modern funky groove for which multi-instrumentalist Masa Takumi has become well known. Notably, he received GRAMMY® nominations for his work with reggae legends SLY & ROBBIE in 2014, playing guitar and keyboards on the album REGGAE CONNECTION, and REGGAE POWER in 2015. Takumi has also composed soundtracks for Japanese animation titles such as "Claymore" (2007), "Witchblade" (2006), “Peach Girl” (2005), and “Genshiken” (2004).
On Takumi's 2016 album, his solo debut “Stars Falling,” he composed and performed all the instruments, creating a sparkling orchestral dreamscape. This was followed in 2017 by the album “Deep Down,” which won both Akademia Music Awards and Global Music Awards. His artistic music video for “Deep Down” achieved a nomination at the 2018 Hollywood Music In Media Awards. Takumi is also an accomplished magician and a member of the world-famous Magic Castle, an exclusive, private club in Hollywood, California. Takumi has recently found a new home with the Domo Music Group, which is the music publishing house known for the esteemed Kitaro (also for world renowned musicians that include The Yoshida Brothers and Korean Gayageum virtuoso, Luna, Grammy-nominee Dave Eggar, multi-instrumentalist / arranger and pianist Stephen Small and Turkish mantra singer Seda Bağcan).
The only vocals heard on this instrumental album are in the form of dramatic ghostly cries. I love that sound, so phantasmic, bringing to my mind the ephemeral beauty of living. To me Heritage is in part an homage to gagaku, the ancient court music of Japan. Gagaku, literally meaning “elegant music,” is the oldest surviving music in Japan, the direct ancestors of the present gagaku ensembles who not only contributed to the creation and development of modern-day music, but also established this unusual tradition as a global art form.
"Heritage" (3:30) opens with a bouncing boogie done in a gakaku style, which soon breaks into an icy cold bridge, then takes it back to the bounce. Decorated with traditional spooky instrument sounds, there is that funky beat. I dig the thematic transformation, with lots of popping around, old school imperial court music mixing with the drums and the piano, you can feel his music bringing the past to life in a symphonic way.
The second track begins with a spine chilling crazy old vocal cry, ringing strings that sparkle and the ancient slow gakaku groove, which moves over to the funky beat. "Hanamachi Girl" (5:12) where dreams are dancing, bringing images to mind of the life of the pleasure quarters. Hanamachi's literal meaning is "flower town" which is a local name for a Tokyo geisha district. There are strong steps with breaks of delicate melodic pauses bringing gossamer glimpses of historic instruments.
This next one is my favorite because it is such a mixture of spooky and strong, things are hidden in the mix that I want to know more of. I am hearing a mysterious layered shadow show, with dry shakuhachi whispers and a sequencer hiding under the piano lead ensemble, then it breaks into a dramatic movement that crescendos, breaking again into an array of strange gagaku and shadow show sounds. "After The Nightmare" (4:50) is a satisfying wild ride emerging with a mysterious smile that one keeps hidden like family heirlooms secreted in a locked box at the back of the closet.
Stop and enjoy something delicate, a breeze and a dream. "Bells In Summer" (4:27) breathes, listen to slow stately ringing electronics with an aura of dignity, mystery, and awe, the lightness of being is conveyed with Masa's masterful piano, a joyous sound describing the magic of twilight and a feeling of tranquility. It has a warm nostalgic glow.
The name Toki means "Time Of Opportunity," it is up to you how to make the best use of the opportunity. This track is "Toki" (3:06), and it brings fast-paced layered electronics and piano, with the delightful electronic textural decorations that are unique to Heritage.
I am imagining people ascending a winding mountain path, I think it’s an invisible part of the musical journey. The next track is another encounter with nature, "Bamboo Forest" (4:15) is a chilly groove with lots of room to breathe, piano ornamented with awesome electronic shadows and breezes. The pace is moderate, not particularly fast on the mountain vistas, not too slow in the forest.
"Sakura River" (3:36) is a refreshing slow meditation on cherry blossoms shimmering on the peaceful water. During the piano solo I think of a haiku poem describing both arboreal and human “blossoms.” The joyful tradition of hanami (flower viewing) is an old and ongoing tradition, a reverential, sacred respect bringing to mind both clouds and cloud-like profusions of springtime sakura blossoms, on a glorious spring day, with watery reflections, to remind us how the world should be. World peace is the basic message.
To close the album return to the stately imperial sound drifting on a bed of piano poetry. "Midwater Night's Neo Dream" (3:34), bringing back the full blended orchestra with Kabuki shadows and flowing grooves, long, sustained, and very slow in feeling but lifted into heavenly dance, the effect is complex and haunting.
This album is something that is worth the time to listen to again and again, something new from a rising star. Enjoy his outlook on life, study his intuitive musical philosophy, and understand his responsibility to create music which has a good influence on society. Feel the influence of this amazing musical creation. The sounds of the island nation of Japan blossom on his palate of piano, drums, guitar, bass, electronica, and awesome cool funky beats. My words are not strong enough, but you can enjoy the color of traditional spicy breezes emerging from the ancient court, the forbidden music, leading the way for an entire album. Your best bet is just to sit back and enjoy this hypnotic ride into history and dance to the joyful melodies.
2 Hanamachi Girl
3 After The Nightmare
4 Bells In Summer
6 Bamboo Forest
7 Sakura River
8 Midwater Night's Neo Dream
Review of HERITAGE by Masa Takumi
Release date: 24 April 2020
The Artist: https://www.masa.world/
The Record Label: https://www.domomusicgroup.com/
The Promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ2IHRNPNuM
The Music: https://biglink.to/heritage
The FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MasanoriTakumi/
The YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhZiI0FDoGxzS5Et_mtpQw
#MasaTakumi, #JapaneseContemporaryMusic, #DomoMusicGroup, #Multi-instrumentalist, #Heritage, #WorldMusic, #GagakuJazz