Keeping traditions alive is not easy; it’s even harder when there is no one to teach them. When Ainu musician Oki recently re-created traditional tunes on the tonkori, the stringed instrument of the Ainu people, his only guides were pre-1970s recordings of tonkori music collected by ethnomusicologists on bulky open-reel recorders.

The result, “Tonkori,” an album that was released in late May by Oki’s own label Chikar Studio, reflects the artist’s continued quest for his Ainu roots. But this time, the musician, who is famed both in Japan and abroad for mixing reggae, dub and other roots music in his tonkori performances, stuck to an authentic rendition of the endangered traditional tonkori music.

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