ListN Up Playlist: Megumi Saruhashi (July 13, 2023)

ListN Up is a series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Megumi Saruhashi is a violinist and composer from a seaport city, Chiba, Japan. She has embraced her credo “The earth is my home, the sky is my blanket. Wherever I go, I am home,” with three bases she calls home, namely, Japan, New York, and Egypt. She performs her compositions inspired by her travels with her ensemble, and she’s been active as a soloist performing Arabic music with orchestras and ensembles in Cairo, Egypt, including Cairo Opera House.

Hi, everyone. My name is Megumi Saruhashi. I’m a violinist and composer based in NYC, Japan, and Cairo. I perform my compositions as well as traditional Arabic music. With this playlist, I exclusively focused on the music from my childhood in Japan, before I moved to NYC, and long before I discovered Arabic music. The reason is that my dad left this world this year. It was very sudden and unexpected. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge my dad’s influence on me musically, because I wouldn’t be doing what I do now without him.

Also, as I was making this playlist, I was surprised to find out that the anime music has also been a big part of my life. So I included a lot of “otaku” music as well. This playlist is like a photobook of my childhood but with music. You can get a glimpse of what it was like growing up in Japan in the 90s. Hope you enjoy it and please let me know what you think. Don’t forget your earphones!

“Legend of Ashitaka” by Joe Hisaichi (from Princess Mononoke)

This is from one of my favorite movies of all time, Princess Mononoke, by Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli). It’s about the gods of a forest and humans who exploit resources. I went to see this movie at the movie theater about seven times as a kid. I highly recommend watching the film in the original Japanese version, not with voiceover, as the voice actors are also important elements in anime. You can see how.

“夢の行方 (Yume No Yukue)” by Emiko Shiratori (from Doraemon: Nobita’s Dorabian Nights)

Doraemon has a gadget that can take you inside story books and experience them for real. They ended up in a desert with Sinbad of the Arabian Nights. This was my first introduction to anything about the Arab world. I still love this movie and this song at the end of the movie. If there’s a translation available, I highly recommend watching this movie.

“Leaving” by Richard Beirach

I grew up in a house full of jazz records and a drum set and piano in the living room, because my dad played jazz drums. “Elm,” another composition by Richard Beirach, was very popular in Japan. “Leaving” is another favorite of mine. Somehow, I couldn’t find my favorite version of this piece anymore, but anything with Richard Beirach is divine.

“En La Orilla Del Mundo (At the edge of the world)” by Charlie Haden

Another jazz record, Nocturne, by Charlie Haden. The music was written originally by Martín Rojas, with lyrics by Pablo Milanés. I can’t think of anything more romantic than this title and music. And this music is sure to take you to the edge of the world. I love the Uruguayan violinist Federico Brito on this album.

“手の中の宇宙” by Hitomi Tsuburaya

Hitomi Tsuburaya is a granddaughter of a national legend, Eiji Tsuburaya, who co-created Godzilla and Ultraman. Strangely, I met her in Saudi Arabia where we both performed at a Japanese festival. Her voice was very healing to me, especially because it was right after my dad passed. This is when I realized anime music had such a big musical influence on me as a kid growing up in Japan.

やさしさに包まれたなら(Yasashisa ni tsutsumareta nara) by Arai Yumi (from Kiki’s Delivery Service)

From another favorite movie by Studio Ghibli. The lyrics starts by saying, “When I was small, there were Gods…” This reminds me of my childhood because I used to talk to Gods all day every day. The Japanese have a phobia for religions and we are not monotheistic, but we have Gods’ presence in our daily lives, and talk about it often because there are many Gods who live in the land of Japan.

“東京音頭 (Tokyo Ondo)” by Shinpen Yamanaka

This song will take you straight to my neighborhood. I would hear this song every summer when there was a festival in the neighborhood. We dressed up in yukata, a summer easy-to-wear kimono, and went to the festival. There are many yatai (small food stalls) with choco banana, takoyaki, and ikayaki (grilled squid), while people dance to this song in the center. This song is heard in the Tokyo area, and I believe other regions have their own music.

“Liebestraum No. 3” by Franz Liszt, performed by Kyohei Sorita

This is such a classic, but this piece reminds me of Japan partly because I used to play it on piano every day as a kid, but I also heard and played so much classical piano, especially Chopin and Liszt. Japan is the largest manufacturer of pianos, so it’s no surprise every corner you turn, there is a high-quality piano. But I still find it interesting that classical music is so popular in this Buddhist country of the Far East.

“涙そうそう(Nada Sou Sou)” by Okinawa folk band Begin and singer Ryoko Moriyama, sung by Rimi Natsukawa

This title is Okinawan language, Northern Ryukuan language spoken primarily in the southern half of the island of Okinawa. The lyrics are about remembering a deceased loved one by flipping through a photo book. If you have lost a loved one, be ready to cry out as you listen to this song.


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