The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


PREMIERE: OKI Live Session For Le Guess Who?
Patrick Clarke , December 9th, 2022 10:02

Find the premiere of a stunning session performance from Ainu artist OKI recorded live at this year's Le Guess Who?, as well as a quick Q+A, below

In February, OKI released Tonkori In The Moonlight, an ambitious and genre-spanning compilation of songs recorded between 1996 and 2006 that would go on to be one of tQ's favourite compilations of the year.

The musician, who was born on the Japanese island of Hokkaido but identifies as part of the indigenous Ainu culture, supported that release with a series of acclaimed shows across the world, one of which was at Utrecht's Le Guess Who? festival last month.

While in The Netherlands, OKI also recorded a live session for the festival, filmed by Vincent Moon, which you can watch exclusively via The Quietus above.

To find out more about the songs he recorded – 'Muysoka Hanene' and 'Tonkori Monimahpo-Yaykatekar' – and to reflect on a monumental year, tQ also caught up with the artist for a brief Q+A, which follows below.

How was your Le Guess Who?

OKI: Festivals like Le Guess Who? are not popular in Japan so it was a nice surprise for us to see such large audiences for music that is more experimental and eclectic. We liked the venue Cloud Nine where we played – both the sound and lighting was great – and of course the audience. The people at the festival also made us feel comfortable. It was the perfect start to our European tour.

Can you tell us the stories behind the tracks you performed for the filmed session?

OKI: 'Muysoka Hanene' is a kind of game. The song gets faster and faster and the idea is to continue until somebody makes a mistake. This song is perfect for improving concentration and developing a sense of rhythm. 'Tonkori Monimahpo-Yaykatekar' is a medley of two songs with two very different stories. For 'Tonkori Monimahpo' (Tonkori girl), the lyrics are from Sakhalin-based Ainu storyteller Take Asai, and are based on a story about monsters who had captured two girls because they could not stand the sound of the tonkori (as played by a character named Horokewpo who lived with the girls). The girls managed to escape the monsters and one of them, who had a scar on her face, eventually married Horokewpo and lived a happy life. 'Yaykatekar' was written by Ume Nishihira, and is a song about a girl who married a good man.

2022 seems to have been extremely successful for you – how have you found the reception to Tonkori In The Moonlight?

OKI: I was surprised that songs I wrote more than 20 years ago are now of interest to music lovers in other countries. For a long time it felt like my music didn't have a home, yet the popularity of the songs has now made me realise that they were just ahead of their time. My record label, Mais Um, categorised my music as folk music – when I made these songs I just wanted to make music like Lee "Scratch" Perry. The standout memory for us this year was the European tour. We enjoyed it a lot.

Are there plans for another compilation to follow, covering your work beyond the time period covered by that album?

OKI: Yes, next year we will record a new OKI album and release a compilation of my work with my bigger OKI Dub Ainu Band.