When voices, stripped bare, bring hope

Kojima Keitaney- Love.
Kojima Keitaney- Love.

Singer-songwriter and sound designer Kojima Keitaney-Love often found himself plunged into darkness and quiet in the days following the 2011 earthquake.

"At that time, we often had power failures in Tokyo. Because I usually used electronic devices such as microphones and amplifiers, I couldn't perform my act," says the 36-year-old through a translator.

"Even in that situation, there were many reading events with just voices - no microphones - in many cafes and spaces."

It was a new, mellow atmosphere, with the warm sound of natural voices unfurling.

"I was so touched. Then I realised that without microphones or amplifiers, with only one acoustic guitar, we can overcome a rough night," says Keitaney-Love.

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He will be on the After Fukushima panel with poet Ryoichi Wago on Sunday at the Singapore Writers Festival, and perform and speak at An Evening Of Love: A Musician's Trip Through Japan on Saturday.

Since the 2011 earthquake, which struck off the Pacific coast of Japan's Tohoku region, he has travelled around the country, performing in a dramatised reading of the classic fantasy novel Night On The Milky Way Train.

Written by Kenji Miyazawa, a legendary author from Tohoku, in 1927, it is a tale that explores life and death, following two close friends who find themselves on a train headed to heaven.

Novelist Hideo Furukawa, also from the Tohoku region, decided to tap the novel for emotional support and inspiration.

Alongside other artists, including Keitaney-Love and poet Keijiro Suga, he created a travelling show that wove together elements such as music and the spoken word.

Shows are often staged in areas affected by the 2011 disaster.

Keitaney-Love decided to come on board to help with the music, "because if I made a beautiful sound for Kenji Miyazawa's words, the magic power of song might help people who had uneasy feelings, like me".

He adds: "The song might push them and give them motivation and encouragement.

"Like a small light from a candle that gave me hope in the blackout, a sound also gives us hope. With that, I put all of my heart into the sound."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'When voices, stripped bare, bring hope'. Print Edition | Subscribe