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Kurofune: Songs from the Black Ships

Chiyomi Yamada

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Chiyomi Yamada: A musical journey into the 16th and 17th Century between Europe and Japan

Japanese Soprano Chiyomi Yamada (山田千代美), accompanied by lutenists Toyohiko Satoh and David van Ooijen, performs songs from the European Courts and Japanese pleasure quarters of that time, bringing back to life the musical world of the missionaries and traders who first came to Japan on the famous Black Ships.

The songs on this recording are inspired by the story of the Tensho Boys: four young samurai escorted by Portuguese missionaries, whose Delegation to Europe set sail from Nagasaki in 1582 and lasted eight years. During this journey the Tensho boys had cultural contact with the Portuguese, Spanish and Italian Courts and they also learned to play European instruments. It is very probable that they heard these very songs during their trip. The Japanese part of this recording consists in well-known traditional Japanese “standards” in the 17th-century pleasure quarters, much visited back then by foreign merchants and sailors.

“Kurofune” is a possible musical snapshot of the fascinating era before the “locked state” (1639), a complex era of cultural exchanges between quintessentially different music, people, worldviews and lifestyles.