"CoRai", the Japanese music duo’s name comes from two Japanese characters; Co去 meaning past and Rai 来 meaning future.
CoRai is made up of Mr. Kentaro Kihara, a Jazz pianist possessing a distinguished technique and a strong sense of melody. The other member of the duo is Mr. Hiroshi Yamaguchi, a Tsugaru Shamisen (Japanese traditional three string instrument) player with splendid performance skills hailing from a family with a long history of Shamisen players. It was Mr. Yamaguchi’s ambition to spread the sound of shamisen into the other genres of music that led him to accept the invitation from the Embassy of Japan to perform three concerts in three different areas in South Africa from the 7th to 11th of August.
Their South African tour began at the prestigious Brooklyn Theatre in Pretoria on Wednesday 8th of August. Coincidently, this day was exactly 100 years since the establishment of the Japanese Consulate in Cape Town which was the first Japanese mission on the African continent and is now a symbol of the long history of bilateral ties between Japan and South Africa.
Mr. Shigeyuki Hiroki, Ambassador of Japan to South Africa gave the opening address for this memorable concert and at the end of his address, he suddenly removed his jacket and shirt revealing a white T-shirt on which was written "Ichiban" a Japanese phrase meaning "number one" in English. Ambassador Hiroki now wearing his "Ichiban" T-shirt started shouting "Ichiban" to call CoRai to the stage. The audience appreciated the gesture and were being moved by Ambassador's hospitality and humour.
The musical duo come together to create a unique sound with a sense of tension and harmony.
This talented pair played not only their original songs such as "Bridge" which was inspired by their visit to South Africa, but also covered Japanese traditional songs, the well-known South African lullaby "Thula Thula" and the National Anthem of South Africa. The audience of over 200 gave a standing ovation to CoRai's breath-taking beautiful sound whilst celebrating this memorable day.
The next day, Thursday 9th of August, was National Women’s Day in South Africa and CoRai visited “Home Lounge” which is located north west of Pretoria in Mabopane. Home Lounge is run by a passionate young man called Mr. Kgomotso Sekhu, who wishes for the growth of his community and conducts music workshops for young students who love music and who wish to express their ideas, hopes and dreams. Home Lounge invited CoRai to perform, in its neighbourhood, bridging the different music cultures. Sekhu started Home Lounge in a deserted house, with limited space and equipment. The venue did however match CoRai’s purpose of creating a “cultural exchange through music” and sharing sounds between South Africa’s local artists and CoRai to evoke future collaborations.On the 10th of August, CoRai flew to Cape Town and held their final concert at a cutting-edge art space called Young Blood Africa which is located in the central area of the city of Cape Town. Mr. Yasushi Naito, Consul of Japan in Cape Town spoke about the historical connection between Japan and South Africa and linked this to “CoRai” who connects old traditional music with that of modern day and future sounds. CoRai’s hybrid music style was well received by Cape Town’s enthusiastic audience. When Mr Kihara’s melodious piano solo was finished, the audience gave a storm of applause. The audience also did not hold back any cheering after Mr. Yamaguchi’s passionate tremolo picking. The one hour and half concert was filled with a colourful sound which combined east and west, past and future.
Mr. Kentaro Kihara and Mr. Hiroshi Yamaguchi from CoRai concluded their first South African tour by saying,
“We were really glad to be able to start our South African tour from the very memorable day 8th of August, which commemorates the beginning of the relationship between Japan and South Africa, which was the first place our ancestors visited on the African continent all those years ago. It was an honour to present our music as a bridge connecting our culture with the culture of this wonderful country. This fruitful tour gives us motivation for our future composition and performance. We are going to take back this deep experience to Japan and spread the news about this fascinating country. Then, we will be back here with brand new songs,”
the duo concluded.