I love albums that have a story to tell, albums that fill your mind with images, people, situations, smells and – above all – atmospheres. It all comes to life through music. One such epic music project is Kitaro’s Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai. The most recent installation is no. 4, which was nominated for the 2011 Grammy awards.
The Ku-Kai series is inspired by the classic Buddhist pilgrimage to the 88 sacred temples on Japan’s remote Shikoku Island. This journey was taken by the Buddhist monk Ku-Kai over a millennium ago, and the message was that of peace, and caring for each other and Mother Earth. Kitaro continues this journey in his music, and you don’t have to travel to Japan to go in the footsteps of the good Ku-Kai.
To give us an idea what this is about, Domo music has given us the above interactive map that we can explore (click here for the full size, clickable map). By looking at these pictures of the different temples and locations on the Shikoku island we get an idea of what this is about. Of course, the music is very epic in itself so you don´t have to know the map – but it is nice to have some background knowledge of this. And for you world travelers out there – this would make an interesting destination while visiting Japan!
It is always exciting to get a new installment in the Ku-Kai series. What will be the overall atmosphere? Is it fast or slow, dramatic or peaceful? No doubt, some of the locations on the road around the island have a more dramatic history to tell, while most are about spirit, nature and contemplation. On this 4th leg of the journey, we get some of the finest songs so far in the series.
Given the fact that we here are talking about a religious journey, there is this underlying feeling of awe. You get to hear the temple bells, the silent whisper of the water and the wind, and one can´t avoid feeling small and insignificant in the big scheme of things. The album starts at the Zenjibu-Ji temple with the almost 10 minute long song called Lotus Mountain. Here the sound of nature and Kitaro’s magnificent string synth gives one the feeling of traveling upwards toward a place with a good view. It is like a build up for the rest of the album.
Some of the songs have a lighter atmosphere, like Reflection of Water and South Wind (which has the sound of the theme from Silk Road – and we love that, don´t we?!). These songs give you time to relax and meditate. But the most interesting song on the album is without a doubt the last one, the 4 minute Ritual Wind. Kitaro’s presentation of the Enkou-Ji temple is just breathtaking. As a radio host I just love songs that gives the in medias res effect, songs that you can listen to for 5 seconds and you´ll find yourself in the middle of the drama. From a melodic perspective the song is interesting too, since there is really no build-up and no theme, but one continuous melody that is as dramatic as it is satisfying. It is a song that I simply can´t wait to play for our listeners at New Age Stars radio.
Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai Vol. 4 is the kind of album all new age artists dream to create, but only a true maestro – like Kitaro – can deliver. He is the true master of larger-than-life music. After having completed yet another listen of Ku-Kai Vol. 4 I feel thankful that Kitaro has 40 more locations to visit. In other words; the temple journey is far from over.
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