Kishi Bashi - Omoiyari
Jul 6, 2019 (updated Dec 24, 2019)
On Omoiyari, Kishi Bashi presents us with one of the most captivating concept albums of the year.

Perhaps I am very biased since I'm Asian-Canadian, a violinist and can personally connect with this album, but I do think the subject matter that an album like Omoiyari deals with is not something you see or hear from often.

So my late grandfather had always been an important figure to me while growing up. Though he was a very flawed man, the memories I share with my grandpa are everlasting and I keep them all deep inside my heart! He had a short temper, but he was a very happy old man. I didn't realize just how much he loved and cared for me until he left my life.

He would tell stories about his childhood, and hearing these stories always made me feel bad and grateful for what I have. My great grandparents moved to Canada in the 1910s. For them to even immigrate to Canada, they had to pay a head tax and Chinese immigrants were the only people in Canadian history to have to pay this tax. My grandfather was born in Canada and only learned how to walk when the Great Depression hit, putting him and my great grandparents in the streets. He never went to school and was occasionally beat up by other kids in the streets for his race, culture and skin tone.

Things ended up getting better. My family made enough money in their small fishing business by the Pacific Coast to sustain themselves. Then, with the outbreak of WW2 and the Americans declaring war on the Japanese, in 1942, my grandfather and his parents were mistakenly identified as Japanese immigrants. They were all detained and sent to a concentration camp. My grandfather was celebrating his 14th birthday when this all happened and everything was taken away from him.

They spent the next 7 years working in the unsanitary and rough conditions of the camps and in eastern farms. In the end, they learnt that the little business property they had once owned was no longer theirs, and nothing could be done to get it back. My grandfather also never got to see his sister ever again.

I was 7 years old when my grandfather told me all about this. I asked him how he ever managed to cope with this harsh reality. He told me, in Mandarin Chinese, "The chances that a human would take to find beauty in the worst of circumstances is what makes it all worth it. In the end, I learned to accept the reality and move forward." Then, he told me another story.

On the same night that he found out his younger sister was raped and killed by another detained Japanese man in the camp, he befriended a little cockroach that he found lurking in his tent. As a child who was still finding out the realities of the world around him, he imagined that his younger sister came back to him cause she loved him so much. As a 15 year old who had to work long shifts in the camp, he brought his cockroach friend along and sang old Chinese folk songs while working. When food was served, he saved the last few tastiest pieces for his little critter friend. At night, he put his cockroach in a little glass jar and sang until it looked like it was well rested/asleep to the naked eye. He promised his little pal that if they never see each other again, they would at least be better off. My grandfather and his family were forced to relocate several times. One day, my grandfather, at the age of 21, received the news that they were no longer being detained and hurried excitedly to tell his parents and his cockroach friend that he left in the jar earlier. The cockroach was gone.

Omoiyari's subject matter deals with the infamous history of Japanese internment in North America. However, rather than highlighting the horrific, dark and stomach-churning aspects of this cruel part of history, Kishi Bashi instead takes a more captivating, admirable approach, referencing the great achievement of resilience during times of suffrage. Omoiyari showcases colorful, gorgeously assembled instrumentation alongside well crafted songwriting and an atmosphere of beauty. Some tracks may outshine others instrumentally or in Kishi Bashi's songwriting, but it's an album that flows effortlessly.

It's quite a cute album too. In a way, it's like the childhood innocence that lays hidden underneath the realities of human cruelty. Perhaps this is how my grandfather dealt with the horrors. He let his innocence roam free in a world that was actually physically and mentally tearing him down.

I do think this is an important album. In a world filled with cruelty, where people bring each other down and there's little room for sympathy, it's great to hear exceptional gems like this from time to time. It really reminds us that our world, no matter how flawed, is a good place and we should cherish it.

Thank you Kishi Bashi. Thank you grandpa. These are the moments I will never forget.
Jul 6, 2019
rly cute review tbh
Jul 6, 2019
Shit, this made me cry a bit. Wow. Bit lost for words after reading
Jul 6, 2019
My god. You are on fire
Jul 6, 2019
*sniff* Oh my gosh, I could just hug you right now. It's so effing beautiful how much music impacts us like this.
Jul 7, 2019
Jul 7, 2019
Thanks for the comments everyone! I was debating on whether or not I should review this for a while now. It really struck me personally.
@thomasny18 Sorry I made you cry
@Plats you can give me a virtual hug if you want. :)
Aug 22, 2019
Great Review!
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