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Yoshida Brothers

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Wildly popular in their native Japan, the Yoshida Brothers are virtuosos of the Tsugaru shamisen, a traditional three-string instrument not unlike the banjo, and they've taken the instrument outside the realms of Japanese folk, incorporating elements of pop, smooth jazz, rock and new age styles into their music. The Yoshida Brothers perform with the strength and swagger of rock guitarists, while respecting the shamisen and its rich heritage. The Yoshida Brothers hail from the city of Noboribetsu in Hokkaido prefecture; Ryoichiro Yoshida was born in 1977, and Kenichi Yoshida in 1979. The siblings each took up the shamisen when they were five, and in 1990 they began advanced instruction under master musician Takashi Sasaki. After an impressive showing at several shamisen competitions, the Yoshida Brothers released their first major label album in Japan in 1999; it was a surprise success, selling over 100,000 copies, and became the first of several top-selling releases for the duo. While the Yoshida Brothers initially performed in a traditional folk style, they soon began embracing a more eclectic sound and their live performances became increasingly elaborate. In 2003, after several more high-charting albums and successful concert tours at home, the Yoshida Brothers made their American debut, releasing a self-titled album through Domo Records and playing a handful of U.S. dates. More international touring followed, and the duo's 2006 album III was recorded in Los Angeles, with a tour of Europe, the United States and Hong Kong following. In 2007, the Yoshida Brothers' music reached more American ears than ever before when one of their songs was used in a television spot for the Nintendo Wii video game system.