The Ancient Music Of The Ainu Into The Modern Age.
From Ainu (The Indigenous People of Hokkaido Japan)
OKI was born to a Japanese mother and an Ainu father.
After graduating in crafts at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts
and Music, he moved to New York in 1987, where he worked as
special effects artist on film productions.
He returned to Japan in 1992, and was presented with his first
tonkori - the traditional stringed instrument of the Karafuto
Ainu. Originating from the Sakhalin Island, the instrument
inspired him to relocate to Hokkaido, where he taught himself to
play and craft the tonkori.
Currently, OKI is the most prominent performer of this
instrument in the world. His contemporary approach, which fuses
Reggae, African and Electronica with Ainu folk melodies, has won
praise not only in Japan, but also worldwide.
Through his active participation in the United Nations' Working
Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP), OKI has developed a
network with other indigenous artists. He has collaborated so
far with the well-known Native American Flutist, R. Carlos Nakai,
the Australian Aboriginal band, Waak Waak Jungi, the Taiwanese
singer-songwriter, Pau-Dull (Chien-Nien), as well as Abe Barreto
Soares, the East Timorese poet, and the Siberian vocalist, Olga
Letykai Csonka. Many of these collaborations are featured on his
latest album, No-One's Land, released in 2002.
OKI is accredited as the producer for the widely acclaimed CDs
Ihunke (2001) and Upopo Sanke (2003), both featuring Umeko Ando,
the renowned Ainu performer of the mukkuri (Jew's harp) and
upopo (traditional chanting).
In 2004, OKI toured throughout the US, as well as performing at
WOMAD in Australia, with his band OKI & the Far East Band.
Developed on the northern island of Karafuto (Sakhalin), the
tonkuri is the only stringed instrument in the Ainu musical
It is a long, flat instrument, which produces mysterious
overtones. These tones are the result of its thin body allowing
for sound to reverberate strongly within. The instrument's
soundboard is unfretted, and traditionally only the open pitches
of the 3-5 strings are sounded, so it cannot be adapted for
choral harmony. The limited pitches require the player to rely
on rhythmic variations to sustain interest. The resulting sound
is clearly distinct from Western and traditional Japanese music.