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Tak Shindo

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Tak Shindo, a Japanese-American soundtrack composer, studied under Miklos Rozsa. Academically trained as a musicologist, he also spent time studying traditional Asian music at the University of Tokyo. Shindo employed this background in the Hollywood sound studios of the 1950s. Between soundtrack assignments for Hollywood orientalia, such as Sayonara and Stopover Tokyo, he recorded a series of albums under his own name. Its Shindo's recordings as arranging bandleader that have the most significance for the field of pop exotica.

Thanks to CD reissue, Shindo's orchestral fantasy of Africa, Mganga, is probably the best known of his LP exotica work. However, Brass and Bamboo and Accent On Bamboo were more typical of his output. Shindo took his audacious juxtaposition of stereotypical eastness and westness to the limit on Far East Goes Western, which offered Hollywood cowboy tunes like "San Antonio Rose" and "I'm An Old Cowhand" tinted in Asian colors. All these albums were distinguished by Shindo's effective interweaving of traditional Japanese instruments and big band instrumentation. His subtle balance of koto (thirteen string zither), samisen (three string lute), bamboo flutes and temple gongs with brass, reeds, and drumset in skillful arrangements of big band chestnuts and Hollywood theme tunes achieved a blend that was witty, cosmopolitan, and almost immediately outmoded as the ascendancy of rock and its youth market turned American pop music into an arena of generational identity politics.

Along with other '50s film and television composer-arrangers like Les Baxter, Robert Drasnin, and Esquivel, Shindo's music gained stature in hindsight, rating reappraisal thanks to the intervention of exotica specialists and an intensification of interest in vintage film music. That deserved second listen demonstrates that Shindo's albums amount to much more than the kitsch of their cover graphics.