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HANZ ARAKI - At Our Next Meeting 

HANZ ARAKI - At Our Next Meeting 
Little Sea Records  

For the eleventh album in a recording career that goes back over a quarter of a century, Hanz makes an important change. This time he has chosen to have someone other than himself as producer and, significantly, it is an Irishman that he has chosen: Donogh Hennessy, formerly the guitarist in Lúnasa and a noted composer of tunes. Hanz has been spending an increasing amount of his time in Co. Kerry.

The 12 tracks alternate neatly between his singing and his flute playing and it is the latter that generates the most interest. Hanz is of Japanese/Irish extraction and spent most of his life in the Pacific north-west states of the USA, but his flute playing here shows just how deeply he is steeped in the Kerry background of his maternal ancestors. He sounds equally at home with Kerry polkas as some fast, straight ahead west of Ireland reels. The most satisfying of the tune sets is probably the one that starts with The Whistler At The Wake, taken at the slow jig pace. Of course, it helps that he is with some of Dingle’s finest musicians including Niamh Varian-Barry on fiddle and Méabh Ní Bheaglaoich on accordion.

Four of the songs are traditional and from this side of the Atlantic. The recorded sources of these are not difficult to detect, but in this case it scarcely matters because his pleasing tenor voice phrases these in a way that is at a distance from the way they are normally sung and this manages to add to the interest. He talks about gaining a “sense of renewal” from this album and you can see why.

Vic Smith


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine