Minyo Crusaders breathe new life into traditional Japanese folk songs (minyō) by merging them with Latin, African and Caribbean rhythms, and flourishes of exotica. By doing so, the 10-piece ensemble creates some of the freshest cross-continental roots music around, teeming with punchy melodies and inventive arrangements. Their debut album, Echoes of Japan, has earned them plenty of fans, including legendary producer Ry Cooder who called them “the best band I have heard in many years.”

Originally sung by everyday people like fishermen (Kushimoto Bushi; Mamurogawa Ondo), coal miners (Tanko Bushi) and sumo wrestlers (Sumo Jinku), min’yō folk music deals with topics such as the returning spirits of ancestors (Hohai Bushi), Japan’s smallest bird (Toichin Bushi) and a bride’s love for her husband’s pockmarked face (Otemoyan).

The Minyo Crusaders’ mission is to rescue min’yo from its highbrow status as ossified art music for divas in fancy kimonos and return it to everyday life. The band’s sound could be described as having a retro Japanese feel influenced by a hefty dose of world music. Their approach follows the path of predecessors who have combined minyō with Latin, jazz and other forms of contemporary music; however, minyō’s distinctive stylised form of singing is maintained, providing a sense of authenticity despite the melange of rhythms. The result is both the most familiar and strangest style of folk music that you will hear at this summer’s TD Sunfest Connected – not to missed!