Musical Road to Womex 2021 – Aragaki Mutsumi

We have reached the third episode of our Musical Road to Womex and from Cuba and its grooviest funkero Cimafunk, we travel all the way to Japan for something completely different. On the island of Okinawa, we meet with a mesmerizing sanshin player, singer and composer, Aragaki Mutsumi.

Little more than a year ago Aragaki released her debut album, a milestone in an already remarkable career studded by some exceptional collaborations. Another World of Okinawan Music (out on Niinuhai Recordings) is an example of a forward-looking take on Okinawan music, blending together the local tradition and natural sounds recorded first-hand on the island, with electronica and avant-garde.

We had the opportunity to reach Aragaki and ask her to introduce her sound with a short Q&A and not one, but two playlists!

Can you briefly introduce your music to someone who will listen to it for the first time at Womex?

It’s a trip to her Okinawa, evoked by the sound of her expert sanshin playing, the broad expression of her voice and mesmerizing atmospheres created by natural and electronic soundscapes with visual enhancement from films, photos and paintings, integrating these elements into a unique avant-garde performance. 

Her mission now is to integrate the deep soul of Okinawan music into a contemporary setting without, as she says, ‘losing its scent’. Aragaki Mutsumi is a guardian of her roots and a bold experimenter in one.

Who and what are your musical influences and where does your sound come from?

I’m an Okinawan traditional singer and player, so I’m influenced by, first of all, the great traditional musicians in the past, and also very inspired by musicians who integrate their traditional roots sound with contemporary sound, especially Jazz.

As well as a Worldwide Music Expo, Womex is a good and proper global music fun fair. Is there anything you are looking forward to attending/ enjoying during those five days?

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the artists’ live performances and connecting with them, and also with the delegates from around the world.

This Womex edition will happen in Porto. Have you ever been there and is there anything you are looking forward to doing/visiting/eating or drinking in the Portuguese city?

I haven’t been there. I’m looking forward to seeing its natural cityscapes and unique architecture, visiting churches and cathedrals, and eating and drinking native food and drink.

It goes without saying that Covid-19, lockdowns and regulations have deeply affected the music world in the last 20 months. How do you think the “post- pandemic” music world is going to unfold and what will be the “new normal” in the world music scene?

I believe that of course the live music or live conversation with delegates are the best, but this hard situation today has opened up and expanded possibilities of online conferences or online live performances and also made us feel more free to do online collaborations. So I think that in the post pandemic music scene, there will remain two parallel worlds, on-site and online, and in a synergistic effect, the world music scene will be much closer, richer and bigger.

Womex is a unique opportunity to share and showcase your music with new people and let them know about your upcoming projects. Can you reveal to us some of your plans for the future?

I’m also playing with jazz musicians, and we’ve already created a unique Okinawan jazz, so we hope to perform it all around the world.

I’m planning to collaborate with a great jazz guitarist who integrates traditional roots sound with jazz.

And I’m also planning to collaborate with creative artists to make tracks which have the elements of traditional roots sound, jazz, electronics, improvisation and spoken words or so on.

Let’s say that you have to draft an invitation card for our readers to join you at Womex and enjoy your showcase. What would you write in it?

Title: Another World Of Okinawan Music

In this hard time of Covid, we are more introspective than ever before. Okinawan music might be known as a lively party music which I also like, but it has a rich diversity. I’ll take you on a mystic, divine and soulful trip to “Another World Of Okinawan Music” to take you to your deeper inner world with my unique interpretations of Okinawan traditional music such as Neo-Okinawan music, authentic and avant-garde, with contemporary sounds and visuals.


Photo ©: Fumiya Toma



– Check out the previous Musical Road to Womex episodes HERE –