Sexy Asian Banjo Night at the El Rey

Words: Sara Bond

The Yoshida Brothers took the stage in traditional Japanese garb on Saturday night, August 14 at the El Rey Theatre, carrying their weapon of choice: the shamisen. While the shamisen is a uniquely Japanese sound, Ryoichiro Yoshida, born 1977, and Kenichi Yoshida, born 1979, take it outside of the traditional by conjuring bluesy notes, and even at some moments, sounding like they could belong in a Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack.

Accompanied by a drummer, they mostly played side-by-side, but at times egged each other on in a friendly contest to see who was the better Yoshida. Dueling shamisen, anyone? My personal favorite? The younger brother, Kenichi. While my “plus one” preferred the more controlled mastery of the elder brother, Ryoichiro, something about Kenichi’s passionate looseness won me over. He distinctly kept returning to his “O” face while playing. Maybe that’s why I liked him better.

All in all, it was some sexy shamisen fun, and proof that the shamisen is not reserved for only stuffy old Japanese women who shy at the thought of funky bass. These guys are not afraid to explore and experiment with the sounds they can create with a little funk to the flick of their wrists.