Photo Credit: Max Ritter
Kishi Bashi today announced his fourth album Omoiyari will be released on May 31st, 2019 via Joyful Noise Recordings. Channeling the hard-learned lessons of history — and reckoning with the country’s past internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII — the album is an uncompromising musical statement on the turbulent sociopolitical atmosphere of present-day America. This morning NPR Music debuted first single “Summer of ’42,” which weaves a breathtaking orchestral score over a tale of love and loss. “This is a very important song for me in that it’s the finale piece to the symphonic piece I premiered last year. It’s a love story set in WWII, about falling in love in an incarceration camp and ultimately losing that love,” explains Kishi Bashi. “The significance is that the idea of love, loss, and desire are consistent themes throughout history and help us to empathize with a people in a disconnected past.” Listen to “Summer of ’42” HERE. Omoiyari is now available for pre-order HERE.
“I was shocked when I saw white supremacy really starting to show its teeth again in America,“ Kishi Bashi says. “My parents are immigrants, they came to the United States from Japan post–World War II. As a minority I felt very insecure for the first time in my adult life in this country. I think that was the real trigger for this project.”
Kishi Bashi recognized parallels between the current U.S. administration’s constant talk of walls and bans, and the xenophobic anxieties that led to the forced internment of Japanese-Americans in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. So he immersed himself in that period, visiting former prison sites and listening to the stories of survivors, while developing musical concepts along the way. The unique creative process behind Omoiyari will be documented in a film scheduled for release in early 2020.
“I didn’t want this project to be about history, but rather the importance of history, and the lessons we can learn,” Kishi Bashi reflects. “I gravitated toward themes of empathy, compassion, and understanding as a way to overcome fear and intolerance. But I had trouble finding an English title for the piece. Omoiyari is a Japanese word. It doesn’t necessarily translate as empathy, but it refers to the idea of creating compassion towards other people by thinking about them. I think the idea of omoiyari is the single biggest thing that can help us overcome aggression and conflict.”
The strong conceptual elements of Omoiyari are driven by Kishi Bashi’s captivating musical score. Stepping away from his past loop-based production model, he embraced a more collaborative approach when recording, and for the first time included contributions from other musicians, such as Mike Savino (aka Tall Tall Trees) on banjo and bass, and Nick Ogawa (aka Takenobu) on cello. Kishi Bashi’s spectacular trademark violin soundscapes are still an essential component of his sound, but the focus of Omoiyari is centered squarely on its songs. The result is his most potent and poignant collection of music to date.
“Sometimes when we look at history, it feels far away and removed. But there are fundamental lessons of love, compassion and fear that we can learn from the internment and apply to issues today concerning refugees, immigration, and minorities,” he says. “There are so many tragedies and atrocities that have happened around the world at different times in history, and I think it’s really important to have the compassion to understand the suffering that people endured before you and to not repeat the past.”
Kishi Bashi — whose previous albums 151a (2012), Lighght (2014), and Sonderlust (2016) have garnered serious acclaim from outlets including NPR Music, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian — has also announced headlining U.S. tour dates for this spring. Last month, he performed at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History event commemorating the Day of Remembrance, playing five new songs along with clips from the forthcoming Omoiyari: A Songfilm documentary. A current itinerary of upcoming dates is below.
Kishi Bashi 2019 Tour Dates:
06/08 – Athens, GA @ Georgia Theater
06/11 – Los Angeles, CA @ Masonic Lodge
06/12 – San Francisco, CA @ August Hall
06/14 – Portland, OR @ The Old Church
06/16 – Seattle, WA @ Washington Hall
06/18 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
06/19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Murmrr Theatre
06/20 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club