National Folk Festival Find: George Kamikawa and Noriko Tadano

George Kamikawa
Image Courtesy of George Kamikawa

Roaming around the National Folk Festival is a delight to the senses, at every turn there is something new to taste, wild clothing or handmade instruments to play, the smell of a hot cider or mulled wine and, of course, wonderful music emanating from both buskers and from the many venues spaced around the Canberra site.  In an effort to be heard above the din, the artists plaster all available surfaces with posters advertising their performing times.  After, one-too-many alcoholic ginger ales I found myself staring at a wall of such posters, and amidst a sea of images depicting violins, guitars and banjos, the unexpected image of a Shamisen led my eye to fasten on the poster advertising George Kamikawa and Noriko Tadano.

The small venue of the Flute and the Fiddle was packed for the performance I saw, with many standing on chairs at the back to get a glimpse.  Those walking past couldn’t see the performers, but many were dancing anyway.  I’m pretty sure they would have been surprised to see just two performers on stage. Energetic blues, played on slide-guitar and harmonica by George Kamikawa, combined with the unusual percussive punch of Noriko Tadano’s shamisen created a surprisingly full sound, adding a sort of folky, bluegrass feel to the solid country-blues arrangements.

The banter between the duo and the crowd, and their energy and rapport on stage kept the crowd moving along with them.  This is perhaps not surprising from two such seasoned  performers.  George has honed his performance the hard way, by busking and playing smaller venues since moving to Melbourne in 2001.  Noriko Tadano has been playing Shamisen since she was 6 years old, but her ability to cross styles has meant she’s played with numerous blues and jazz artists.  Since they joined forces, the Melbourne duo have won both numerous awards and critical acclaim.

The show is called “East vs. West”, which is perhaps an accurate description of a musical style that blends Japanese and American sounds, but to this audience member there’s something very Australian about the mixing of cultures and musical styles.  While the act may now rely on exposing the clash of cultures, there is real music being made here, and I hope they continue performing and evolving together.  If you haven’t seen them yet, this duo is a must see at a festival (or street corner) near you!

Country of Origin: Japan/Australia
Sounds Like: Ry Cooder fell into a barrel of Sake and came out fighting…
File Under: Blues, Country, World
Myspace: and


  1. dave said,

    June 6, 2011 at 20:42

    saw you at the closing ceremony at Canberra folk festival. do you have a cd or dvd of those songs?

  2. April 10, 2012 at 23:55

    […] April 2011 – (function() { var po = document.createElement("script"); po.type = "text/javascript"; po.async […]

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