The group mixes Japanese folk songs with Latin and African sounds

@minyocrusaders | instagram

Meet the Minyo Crusaders, it’s a Japanese group that fuses cultures in their music. The group brings traditional Japanese folk songs and merges them with Caribbean, Latin and African sounds.

Min’yō is a genre of traditional Japanese music, which Japanese fishermen, coal miners and sumo wrestlers sang hundreds of years ago. They were also used for entertainment, dancing and religious rituals.

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Today, the Minyo Crusaders are on a mission to make these songs relevant on the world stage.

Band leader Katsumi Tanaka (vocals) first met Freddie Tsukamoto (guitar) in the late 90s, but Tanaka had no interest in playing min’yō. It wasn’t until the 2011 Tohoku earthquake that Katsumi Tanaka began to question and rethink her Japanese life and identity. Shortly after forming a group of local musicians in Fussa in 2016, they had grown into a 10-member band.

Their goal became to revive the min’yō style in the present day, the group hoped to make Japanese folk music as cool as the cumbias. Since then, they have grown in popularity and achieved national recognition in 2018.

Minyo Crusader’s latest album stems from their performance at Guess Who? Festival, he came out after their 6-week European tour was canceled due to the pandemic.

Their debut album weaves Japanese folk songs with genres like cumbia, Ethiopian jazz, reggae and more.

Echoes of Japan masterfully merges multiple genres together. It starts with a Colombian cumbia then goes through afrobeat, reggae, boogaloo and more. Melancholy melodies are intimately associated with horns and percussion from musical genres across continents.

Minyo Crusaders have teamed up with Colombian cumbia band Frente Cumbiero to create Minyo Cumbiero

These two groups brought two distinct cultures that couldn’t be further apart. Minyo Cumbiero took two days to record in Bogota. They took traditional Colombian cumbias, fused them with min’yō and created a unique blend of music.

Earlier this year, the band performed on Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. Their small desk was a Kotstsu table, a heated wooden Japanese table often used during the winter months. This performance gave fans something new to listen to from home.

Follow @minyocrusaders on Instagram and be sure to listen to “Echoes of Japan” on Spotify!

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