DOB: 1977 and 1979
Birthplace: Hokkaido, Japan
In an era dominated by pop music, the Yoshida Brothers bring a new dimension of music to the world scene with their unique fusion of traditional Japanese shamisen music and modern rhythms. With great dedication, discipline and courage, Ryoichiro and Kenichi have shown a younger generation obsessed with everything modern that the traditions of olden Japan are beautiful and worth maintaining. As they tour the world, particularly in the Western hemisphere, an entirely new audience has been discovering this immensely talented duo, their compelling music and infusion of Japanese culture into each dramatic piece they create. In establishing this unusual path in music, the Yoshida Brothers are preserving vital aspects of Japanese tradition, ensuring that a history of a great people does not become obliterated in the onslaught of modern crap.
Interview with Yoshida Brothers
Dina: What made you decide to pursue music instead of a more traditional career path?
Ryoichiro: I chose to pursue my career as Shamisen player at 17. At that time, I had to choose either going to the college or getting a job. Our group name “Yoshida Brothers” had spread out in Hokkaido area when I was in high school, so I wanted to try our skills in Tokyo!
Kenichi: At the time when we made our debut, Shamisen was considered as an “Old” instrument, and people in Japan didn’t have a positive impression much. So, I wanted to show people the greatness of Shamisen that I had been playing since I was five.
Dina: What is a typical day like for you when you’re home in Japan?
Ryochiro: It depends, but I practice Shamisen for 2-3 hours a day everyday.
Kenichi: When I have a free time at home, I usually practice Shamisen or writing songs, and sometimes watch TV or movies. I also like playing games. I try to relax at home when I can, since I often travel around for concerts.
Dina: What is your ultimate dream?
Ryoichiro: I would like to show the beauty of this instrument to Japanese people, and to the world!!
Kenichi: I would like to be an intellectual entertainer, not just being a musician.
Dina: What is your biggest fear?
Ryoichiro: I concerned about the music schools that teach Japanese traditional instruments. I am worried that someday traditional instruments will vanish if we haven’t change the way to teach. We must teach students the essence of the instruments and the joy of playing.
Kenichi: Rapid climate change happening on the Earth. Shamisen needs a lot of natural materials to be made.
Dina: What is your favorite food?
Ryoichiro: I like typical Japanese foods like broiled fish or Sushi.
Kenichi: All Japanese foods.
Dina: If you reach the age of 80, looking back at your life, what would you want to be able to say to yourself?
Ryoichiro: Good job!
Kenichi: I would like to ask myself if I would have tried my best for everything.
The Yoshida Brothers were born and bred in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido. Each picked up the shamisen at the tender age of five, and began studying Tsugaru shamisen under Takashi Sasaki I in 1990. After sweeping prizes at national Tsugaru shamisen conventions, the brothers made their major debut in 1999. The debut album sold over 100,000 copies, which is an extraordinary figure for a traditional folk music release.
They won the “Traditional Japanese Music Album Of The Year” category of the 15th annual Japan Gold Disc Award, as well as the “30th Anniversary Of Normalization Of Japan-China Diplomatic Relations Commemorative Special Prize” of the 17th Annual Japan Gold Disc Award.
In 2002, the brothers went on their first national tour entitled “Live Soul” performing in 30 cities. The following year, they made their US debut with album YOSHIDA BROTHERS from Domo Records and performed in New York and Los Angeles.
International release followed in Korea in 2004 where they had performed their first concert in Seoul in addition to the domestic tour that included 28 cities. In the meantime, they released their second US album, YOSHIDA BROTHERS II, and went on a US promotional tour, visiting seven cities. It was a year of significant breakthrough, with participations in other various projects such as an international exchange event in Sweden and a TV commercial in Japan.
In 2005, the brothers recorded an album in Los Angeles, followed by a West Coast tour and a concert in Hawaii. In 2006, they toured the US, Spain, and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong they released their very first greatest hits album in their career, and marked favorable sales. Domestically, they launched a shamisen-only national tour. And in 2007, their music created buzz in the US as their music was used in the TV commercial of Nintendo’s Wii. The end of that year, the brothers releaesd their much-anticipated third album in the US, YOSHIDA BROTHERS III.
In 2008, they released album BEST OF YOSHIDA BROTHERS and toured 10 cities in the US and Canada, and they launched their first Oceania tour in New Zealand and Fiji. Their new album PRISM was released in 2009, and toured the US and Canada in May 2009. They have expanded their activities in Asia this year with successful concerts in Taiwan. The brothers were also invited to perform at the centennial celebrations of the legendary Akira Kurosawa’s birth with a live concert in Hiroshima. In 2010, they re-released their debut (“Ibuki”) and second album (“Move”) for US fans.
The following year, the Yoshida brothers performed at the anime festival Otakon at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland. This was also the beginning of their 2010 tour that launched on August 3rd in New York City, and took them to Cambridge (MA), Chicago, and three stops in San Francisco before its conclusion in Los Angeles. At the end of October, the Yoshida brothers were invited to Shangai to perform with DAISHI DANCE at the Shangai Expo. 73,080,000 people attended the Expo, allowing the Yoshida brothers to expose their music to new fans from dozens of nationalities.
As one of the artistic groups whose scope of activities go way beyond that of traditional Japanese music, the Yoshida Brothers continue to take not only Japan but also US, Europe, and Asia their stage. Their future activities are all the more looked forward to.