graphic for Musco Center for the Arts

Kishi Bashi with Chamber Orchestra at Musco Center

Kishi Bashi, whose radiant, uplifting soundscapes have been hailed as “pocket symphonies steeped in classical playing and 21st Century pop,” returns to perform songs from Omoiyari, his latest recording and upcoming documentary film, and “greatest hits” from the composer-musician’s previous albums.

Kishi Bashi, whose Musco Center appearances in recent years have earned him a devoted following, is a favorite of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert program. Bob Boilen of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” said that out of some 1,300 songs previewed for All Songs Considered one year, Kishi Bashi was the one musician “we all agreed was a must-see at SXSW: He didn’t disappoint.”

A Man of Many Talents

The virtuoso violinist, composer and now filmmaker is a master of building songs from the ground up. Said Boilen, “From live violin loops to layered singing to beat boxing, his songs are complicated pocket symphonies steeped in classical playing and 21st-century pop.”

Joining him on stage will be his frequent collaborator, Mike Savino (aka Tall Tall Trees) on banjo, Emily Hope Price on cello, and a 15-piece string section. He also hopes to screen segments from the documentary work-in-progress.

In the days prior to the concert, Kishi Bashi will conduct workshops for music students and faculty in Chapman University’s College of Performing Arts. The workshops are part of the inaugural year of Musco Center’s Leap of Art program. The new Musco Center initiative, in partnership with various Chapman colleges and departments, seeks to reunify art and science while establishing long-term collaborations that illuminate what is taught in Chapman’s College of Performing Arts and other schools.
Kishi Bashi performing with a chamber orchestra.

Composing ‘Radiant, Uplifting Soundscape’

Bashi is the pseudonym of Kaoru Ishibashi, a Seattle-born artist who grew up in Norfolk, Virginia the son of professors at Old Dominion University. In 1994 he entered Berklee College of Music to study film scoring and violin.

Now an internationally revered violinist, Ishibashi records and tours the world with a diverse range of artists including Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche, and the indie rock band of Montreal, which like him is now based in Athens, Georgia. He was the singer and founding member of the New York electronic rock outfit Jupiter One before launching a solo recording and performing career. He went on to open for Lerche, Alexi Murdoch, and of Montreal on its spring 2012 tour.

Shortly after Ishibashi debuted his full-length solo album 151a on Indianapolis label Joyful Noise Recordings, Boilen listed Kishi Bashi as his favorite new artist of 2012. He has since been invited to play in major festivals such as SXSW and Austin City Limits and gone on an extensive U.S. tour with supporting acts such as The Last Bison (from Hampton Roads, Virginia). In early 2013, Kishi Bashi held a North American tour across the United States and Canada, continuing in the EU and UK in spring 2013.

Lighght followed in 2014 and Sonderlust in 2016. All have garnered serious acclaim in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and other media. Omoiyariwas released last May and is available on all platforms.

In 2014 Kishi Bashi released his own line of coffee through Jittery Joe’s called Royal Daark Blend. Each purchase comes with an exclusive song download.

Omoiyari’s Historic Statement

Omoiyari, the album and movie, ask us to imagine being forced from our home and sent to a prison camp with no trial and no promise of release. Imagine this happening simply because of the language you speak, the shade of your skin, or the roots of your family tree. This was a reality for more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.

It’s a reality that Kishi Bashi seeks to reckon with in Omoiyari, his fourth and most important album. The unique creative process behind the recording is now the subject of his new documentary, Omoiyari. Many of the album’s songs, inspired by history and oppression, are tales of love and loss. Channeling the hard-learned lessons of history, Omoiyari is meant to both connect listeners to the past and be an uncompromising musical statement on the turbulent sociopolitical atmosphere of present-day America.

“I didn’t want this project to be about history, but rather the importance of history, and the lessons we can learn,” he said. “I gravitated toward themes of empathy, compassion, and understanding as a way to overcome fear and intolerance. But I had trouble finding an English title for the piece. ‘Omoiyari’ is a Japanese word. It doesn’t necessarily translate as empathy, but it refers to the idea of creating compassion towards other people by thinking about them. I think the idea of omoiyari is the single biggest thing that can help us overcome aggression and conflict.”

Kishi Bashi’s captivating musical score is what drives the strong conceptual elements of Omoiyari. Stepping away from his past loop-based production model, he embraced a more collaborative approach when recording, and for the first time included contributions from other musicians, such as Savino on banjo and bass, and Nick Ogawa (aka Takenobu) on cello.

Kishi Bashi’s spectacular trademark violin soundscapes are still an essential component of his sound, but the focus of Omoiyari is squarely on its songs. The result is his most potent and poignant collection of music to date.

This article was released by the Musco Center for the Arts.