Kodama - Maia Barouh


Impactful musical experiences are added to the palette that the songwriter paints with; the more colours and shades, the more vibrant the art. Japanese/French flautist and singer, Maia Barouh’s new album, Kodama comes in a minimalist, but thought-provoking black and white package which disguises a riot of colours on disc. Kodama is the Japanese word for ‘echoes’. As Maia explains on the inside sleeve, the sounds on the album have ricocheted across the years. “It is my turn to throw them up in the air, in the hope that, after having hit a few concrete walls, they will travel as echoes and reach someone else.” It would be a pity for these echoes to fall on deaf ears because Kodama is an astonishing fusion of electronics, polyrhythms and primal energy with Japanese folk music at its very core. Maia was born to French singer-songwriter, actor and producer Pierre Barouh (founder of French music label Saravah) and a Japanese mother. Her early years were spent between Japan and France, immersing her in both languages and cultures along the way. But, when she travelled to Rio de Janeiro with her father who was overseeing a flute recording for an artist he was working with, Maia found her instrument and inspiration for her own music. She was 16 years old. There’s even a Canadian connection. When she was studying classical music in Tokyo she took time to travel to Vancouver to learn English. There she joined a big jazz band and discovered her love for collaboration and playing with others. “There’s no way I can say that my music is something that I’ve created entirely on my own”, she reasons. “Instead, I think of it more as something born as a result of mixing with various people and experiencing various different places and cultures.” That said, Kodama offers more than a few touchstones to her Japanese heritage. The album opener and immediate favorite, ‘Jongala’ started life as a folk song from the North of Japan, wrapped in dark legend of the bloody territory wars that took place 500 years ago. Maia sings with a special throat technique which originates on a small Southern Japanese island. It’s less than a yodel, but still a kind of ‘catch’ in her throat that produces a warble, at times sounding like a digital effect. Her flute of choice on the track is the traditional shakuhachi, but throughout the album, she plays a classical flute in a very percussive manner  that compliments the bubbling electronics and samples. What’s most enjoyable is no matter how eclectic, vibrantly coloured and challenging the compositions, Kodama never becomes weighed down in self-importance. It resonates with accessible hooks and urban youthfulness. “I’d like to create something that people will immediately recognize as something intrinsically my own – although I’m not looking to create anything that’s overly complicated.”