Africa + Trinidad + Brooklyn + Japan = Miyamoto Is Black Enough
From the NewSounds.org Weekly Music Roundup.
The NY-based quartet called Miyamoto Is Black Enough is built around the compositions of Andy Akiho, who plays the steel drum – or more properly, the steel pan – and the poetry of Roger Bonair-Agard. The band’s name refers to Ariana Miyamoto, whose victory in the 2015 Miss Universe Japan competition caused great controversy: Miyamoto is half African-American, and critics complained she was “not Japanese enough.” The band, which also includes Jeffrey Zeigler on cello and drummer Sean Dixon, looks at issues of identity, gentrification, cultural appropriation, and stereotyping. Bonair-Agard, who is from Trinidad but is based in Brooklyn, bookends the album with two pieces called “Panifesto,” which calls back to the African roots of the Trinidadian people and their invention, the steel pan. Akiho’s music blends slow funk, an occasional Caribbean beat, and jazzy outbursts into a composed, almost chamber music-style format, although this quartet, led by the steel pan, is unlike any chamber music ensemble you’ve heard before. This track, called “Revolver,” has a genial reggae shuffle, while Bonair-Agard quietly dismantles the stereotypical image of a black man: yes, he knows how to load a pistol, and he knows Biggie Smalls, but he also knows Mozart and gardening.