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Ecuador is a vibrant South American country with a rich history of musical and cultural traditions. Japan and Ecuador have a long-established benevolent relationship, and on September 19, 2019, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries, a cultural lecture was held at the Min-On Culture Center as a special project sponsored by Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs.

The Ecuadorian band SISAY, an indigenous South American group with members of Native American and Imbayas Nation ancestry, were the main performers of the evening. SISAY are the chief ambassadors for Ecuadorian and Andean music in Asia, with some of the members calling Japan home for over 25 years. SISAY means “blossoming” in the group’s native language, Quechua, and the band brought powerful energy to the stage. They also looked downright stunning in their combination of stylish fedoras and colorful indigenous dress.

SISAY began the evening with five songs from their repertoire. The opening number, Tejiendo nubes, exhibited the sheer power of the lofty Andean harmony that embodies SISAY’s cultural roots. The second song was a medley, Ecuador suite, in classic Ecuadorian style, while the third song, Llamitas, also embodied the signature Andean melody. When the third tune, Moliendo café, began, it was clear that the group had embraced a more Latin/rhumba melody, featuring a passionate, sizzling keyboard solo. The final song of the first set, Bandolero, showcased SISAY’s combination of Latin and Ecuadorian roots in a compelling jam that had the entire audience clapping to the beat.

For the second set of the evening, SISAY was joined by two members of the Japanese traditional music ensemble SAISHOKU-KENBI, Chie Hanawa on the three-stringed shamisen and Shiba Kozan on the Japanese shakuhachi flute. Because SISAY originally features Ecuadorian string and wind instruments, this accompaniment blended perfectly.

Arrangements from the set featuring SAISHOKU-KENBI included the well-known Okinawan tune Nada sousou, which highlighted shakuhachi and then shamisen in that order, the Ue wo muite arukou, which drew enthusiasm and great joy from the crowd, and the closing number A mi lindo Ecuador, an ode to Ecuador that featured a ripping funky bass line and both shamisen and shakuhachi solos.

This concert was organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador, Agency of Cultural Affairs and Min-On Concert Association. It was attended by His Excellency Mr. Jaime Barberis, Mr. Takayuki Mori MRI, Director-General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and Ambassadors from 12 different countries. Thank you to all of our sustaining members for contributing to this wonderful celebration of Ecuador and Japan!