The beginning of Pirates Canoe was when Sara, a Buddhist monk/mandolin player, happened to walk into a baseball bar in the middle of Kyoto, Japan. That’s where she met Kanako, carrying a fiddle case and drinking beer. The very next day, the two heard the singing of Reika in another Kyoto bar. Thus was the band born—Instruments, voice, bars and alcohol.
Although their meeting was fortuitous, the three girls soon found that their musical tastes were eerily similar—bluegrass, Irish, English and American folk, good ole’ roots music. Kyoto is the traditional center of Japan and home to the world’s first manga museum, a true mix of old and modern culture. Yet, these women were more interested in twangy instruments and old ballades than tea ceremonies or anime. Who could blame them if they thought they had found their musical soul mates?
The band’s sound seems to be created from a synergetic effect that’s more than the sum of the parts—Reika’s mellow voice adds sorrow and sweetness, Sara’s eclectic musical sense pushes boundaries, and Kanako’s solid fiddle keeps it all together. They composed new songs based on their love of the old and started playing at bars and cafes in and around Kyoto. They often play as a trio, but also have a “full-band” line-up that includes Kazuhiko (resophonic guitar), Yossie (drums & percussion) and Jun (bass). These are three guys who, amazingly, also love old American folk, soul and pop.
Pirates Canoe didn’t start with the intention of making it big. They only wanted a place to play the music they love, good company, a chance to have a great time together. Anyway, who would expect people to “get” their music, which was so different from the mainstream, or even from tradition? So when their fan base began to grow and they started to get calls from national TV, national radio, and a major corporation like Shiseido, no one was more surprised than the members themselves.