By Sachiko Tamashige
Banks, 75, is a Native American activist and leader of the Anishinaabe people from northern Minnesota. He is known for leading the Longest Walk in 1978, a pilgrimage of 26 Native Americans who walked across the United States to draw attention to Native American rights.
In November, Banks reunited with new-age music composer Kitaro (real name: Masanori Takahashi) in the posh Omotesando district of Tokyo at a party to showcase their album, "Let Mother Earth Speak." Kitaro, 59, is a Golden Globe and Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist regarded as a pioneer in the new age genre.
"The recording session went smoothly as being in Kitaro's studio made me want to sing," Banks adds. "There were more than a hundred instruments in his studio. Just being with Kitaro playing all sorts of instruments inspired me to sing stronger and higher."
The flattery goes both ways as Kitaro praises Banks' voice: "His voice is always in tune and most of the tracks were recorded in one take. It was amazing."
"Let Mother Earth Speak" was released last year and features nine tracks of Kitaro's musical stylings with Banks' spoken word poetry. The album is filled with traditional Native American instruments and, of course, Banks contributes a number of songs indigenous to his cultural background.
Below: "They bang the drums: New-age musician Kitaro (left) and Native American leader Dennis Banks meet up in Tokyo at a party that showcased their joint album, Let Mother Earth Speak." (Sachiko Tamashige)