Do you know what’s going on in Iwai-shima?
I first heard Cruel World in 2006 on Danny McEvoy’s web page and after exchanging emails, I offered to do a remix. At the time I was heavy into recording my Japanese album Waikyoku, so I put together a version using live instruments, then added a rap verse. I had a particular feeling the track would be perfect for an end-roll of a film, so Danny let me hang on to it while I continued to polish the mix.
Fast forward four years, acclaimed documentary director Hitomi Kamanaka asked me to score her film (english title Ashes to Honey), which brings attention to the small island in Yamaguchi, Japan. Iwai-shima (Iwai = celebration / holy, shima= island) sits at the entrance of beautiful Seto-uchi sea, the mediterranean of Japan, if you will. After playing the track and explaining its meaning to the director, she agreed to fulfill our vision. Coincidentally, the phonic of “cruel” means crazy in Japanese : )
Here’s the new video for our track five years in the making, aged nicely in a barrel.
Danny McEvoy: vocals
Shing02: fender rhodes, rap
Yamato Kaneko: acoustic guitar
Akinori Okamura: electric guitar
Motoki Yamaguchi: drums, shaker, tambourine
Emi Meyer: organ
For thirty years, Iwai-shima (currently numbering 500 and most of them seniors) has opposed a planned construction of Kaminoseki nuclear power plant directly across their waters (4km, or 2.5 miles). They believe the power plant is harmful for the environment and their livelihood, so they have steadfastly refused to accept compensation for potential fishery displacement.
Governments stress the necessity and benefits of nuclear energy, however in order to secure necessary permits, authorities have often resorted to strong-arming, bribery, and election fraud. Each step has been chronicled and met with resistance by activists who never bought into the slogan “peaceful use of nuclear power” adopted by the national agenda.
As challenging as it has been for Iwai-shima residents, they are still fortunate in that the plant has yet to be built (in fact they’re still fending off the landfill process as you read this). Over 50 nuclear power plants are currently active in Japan, an area equivalent to the size of California.
In Ashes to Honey, Kamanaka also explores alternatives to the energy issue, by documenting a Swedish town that has harnessed unused and natural resources to meet their energy demands. Clearly, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Proceeds from the soundtrack, scheduled to be released in April, will benefit a fund aimed to build a natural energy plant in Iwai-shima so that it can become independent of the grid.
(the front cover is the view of the island from the construction site)
I encourage you to learn more, although I believe the song actually applies to a lot of things going in the world right now…!
I will keep you posted on the release of the english subtitled version of the film.
Iwai-shima blog 祝島島民の会