Since learning to play multiple instruments as a child, and making a small living from writing jingles for television adverts, Osamu Kitajima moved to Britain and became exposed to the folk acid rock scene. Having been a great period for music, after the huge blossom of sounds which began in the 1960s, by 1970 a well established alternative scene had been formed.
Fusion of Japanese technicalities of form with a backbone made of traditional folk timings, Benzaiten pays homage to the mythical god of music and water with the same name. Japanese folklore contains many wonderful beings which represent nature, and for me the link between music and water being one of a divine nature rings true.
Previous to Benzaiten, Osamu had released an album under the name “Justin Heathcliff”, wishing to sound as British as possible, following influence from The Beatles, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Syd Barrett. This album is now a collectors classic, as the talented Japanese man reissued his real name to front his later material.
The music itself is almost mantra like in its maximum and has qualities of breezing air when at its minimum. The instruments, especially the percussion section, give the sound a feeling of the Japanese culture but in the way it is produced, the safety zone Is always within reach. Briging new sounds and musical devices, scales, modes and so forth, into popular music requires a bit of bridge building. Osamu Kitajima managed this with his work.
Many have been influenced by the oriental and eastern sounding direction that we were given forty years ago, and every genre of music almost has found a use for at least something from this type and period of sound. The live performances of this album would have been a true pleasure to witness, and listen to. Lucky we have the recording of the studio work, as the rareness of this sort of thing means not everyone will be given the chance to enjoy.
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