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Kishi Bashi: Omoiyari

In his fourth album, Omoiyari, K. Ishibashi (known by stage name Kishi Bashi) continues doing what he does best: crafting upbeat, catchy songs with gut-punching messages. The record marks a new realm of sound exploration for the artist, making use of collaboration with other musicians, such as Mike Savino (Tall Tall Trees) and Keiko Ishibashi (his wife). While his past works relied heavily on looping his own violin work, this collaboration lends the new tracks a more lush, organic vibe. Omoiyari surely retains the distinct characteristics which Ishibashi has cultivated through past albums, but it shines in the fullness and dimension of this newfound sound.

What may first seem a record full of light, summer-y tunes is actually a grim statement on the state of affairs in the United States, past and present. Ishibashi connects the current administration’s actions/attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, highlighting shared themes of xenophobia, fear, and political fanaticism. As a Japanese-American himself, Ishibashi has an especially personal investment in the project. Speaking of the current political climate in the nation, he has noted, “My parents are immigrants, they came to the United States from Japan post–World War II. As a minority I [feel] very insecure for the first time in my adult life in this country.”

Some songs make more explicit references to the internment camps than others. For example, the track “Theme from Jerome (Forgotten Words)” contains explicit references to the location of one of the ten camps, located in Jerome, Arkansas. In the process of recording the album, Ishibashi conducted a great deal of research, visiting former internment camps and speaking with those who lived through the experience. (The fruits of these labors will also be documented in a film, which releases next year.)

Omoiyari is not, however, a mere recount of history—the title itself affirms this. There is no direct English translation for the term omoiyari, but it can best be described as a sense of “altruistic sensitivity.” Along with bringing attention to current socio-political issues, the record is intended to foster connection, empathy, and growth. It suggests that we must not only remember history, but improve our present state based on what we can learn from the past. Concepts such as the undying love and hope that can unite us as human beings are also incorporated—tools which we must all utilize to make it through these trying times.

Recommended If You Like: Andrew Bird, Beirut, Sufjan Stevens, of Montreal
Recommended Tracks: 2 (F Delano), 4 (A Song for You), 5 (Angeline), 6 (Summer of ’42), 7 (Theme from Jerome (Forgotten Words)), 9 (Violin Tsunami)
Do Not Play: None
Written by Jaya Chakka on 06/26/2019