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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East

Cicala Muta

By Michael Stone
Published August 1, 2005

Deko Boko

If the unsuspecting listener were to mistake this Japanese group for a klezmer, Balkan or New Orleans brass band, it wouldn't be without reason. The once-popular jinta genre derived from western music imported into Japan in military brass band format. Reinterpreted by circus musicians to accompany silent films or advertise the opening of new shops with street tunes, the rollicking, picaresque, soulful style came to be known as chindon. Leader, composer and multi-instrumentalist (clarinet, saxophones, vibes, accordion) Wataru Okhuma founded Cicala Muta in 1994 to revive chindon. Deko Boko means "convex-concave" or "up-and-down," and the title tune's unusual syncopation sounds like Thelonious Monk on an angular Tokyo clarinet jaunt. There are strains of jinta, jazz ("Albert Ayler Melody," "Jelly Roll [Strange] Morton"), Romania ("Kyu-na Saka," "The Blue Flower Kopanitza"), Turkey ("Sukininattle Gomen-nasai"), Klezmer ("Weekend of a Clown," "Bessarabian Hora"), Bela Bartok ("Bulgarian Rhythm") and the purely, slyly experimental ("Dhon Chorecha Variation"). Deko Boko is a startling musical revelation for listeners looking to stretch their aural horizons.