From Classical To Bluegrass Music With Leona Tokutake


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  • On this show, Anthony takes listeners to the Appalachian mountain areas of the United States with fiddler Leona Tokutake. Leona is a classically trained violinist from Tokyo who moved to America to pursue her dream of playing bluegrass music, a sub-genre of American country music. Bluegrass was inspired by the music of Appalachia with its mixed roots from Scottish, Irish and English traditional music. It was also influenced by the music of African-Americans by incorporating in it some Jazz elements.
  • Anthony also talks about a recent blog entry by Hikosaemon in his Falling with Style series in which Hiko explores his early days in Japan.

Falling in Style with Hikosaemon

Anthony raved about an outstanding post from Hikosaemon which is part of a new blog series called Falling with Style. Writing about his early days in Japan, Post #4 Panda Ambush has some very good information for anyone interested to move and work in the country. Hiko wrote about the early celebrity status he enjoyed as the only Caucasian in his Japanese company and the harsh reality when the celebrity spotlight was turned off. While there are plenty of holiday videos in the country, there are very few resources on what it is like to live and work in Japan. Hiko’s post provides this fantastic insight – and an early photo of him with hair! 

Music from the Mountains

Leona Tokutake is a classically trained violinist who now plays bluegrass country music, an upbeat, faster tempo country music. She made Johnson City, Tennessee her home but is currently touring Japan to promote her latest CD, ‘A New Peace Within.’ She is on the show to talk about her journey from the big city of Tokyo to the mountains of Tennessee.

Leona’s father was a country guitar player in Japan whose taste in American music greatly influenced her. In the search for someone to teach her country-western music, she attended a fiddle camp in Tennessee for a week when she was 16. While surrounded by other kids playing together with their families, she fell in love with their bluegrass music. Compared to country music which often sings about being heartbroken, bluegrass music is influenced by mountain music. It also makes people want to dance and have a good time. Despite being a stranger in their midst, people welcomed her when she showed them she could play very good music. She then earned a college degree in bluegrass music and learned the unique Southern US culture, style, and accent.

When it comes to speaking English, singing came in handy as Leona tried to sing lyrics with good pronunciation. Japanese songs are written differently from English lyrics – Japanese songs are often like poems while English lyrics are simply constructed as sentences.

Leona is back in Japan to promote her new CD and bluegrass music. Some of the songs were played with friends from the States and even her dad performed some songs. She also has a gig in Back in Town Café near Akebonobashi station on July 6. Playing with her is her guitarist brother and singer-songwriter wife.

She is also part of another CD thanking everyone who was concerned and has helped Japan after the March 11 earthquake. Twelve different musicians from all over the world record the same song from their home country to create the album Music Loves You. Their music can be purchased in iTunes and the funds raised will be sent to Fukushima to help people recover from the calamity.

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